What you need to know about the $2.4 billion Dominion-Fox defamation case

Billionaires

All eyes will be on the Delaware Court as Fox News (and its parent company, Fox Corp) fronts a US$1.6 billion defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems, brought on back in 2021.
Rupert Murdoch is seen on November 12, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by PG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

Billionaire Fox Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch and his son, Fox Corp CEO Lachlan Murdoch, are expected to testify in the likely six-week trial, along with two Fox anchors and a former Fox host.

To kick the trial off, Dominion lawyers will question a First Amendment expert on the definition of “defamation” and it could set an important precedent on how broadcasters cover politics – and to what standard.

What is Dominion Voting Systems claiming?

Dominion is claiming Fox destroyed its reputation by repeatedly airing false claims that its voting machines were used to rig the election in favour of Joe Biden. The company says Fox knew the claims were false but continued to broadcast them.

Because this is a defamation case, Dominion’s attorneys will need to prove two things:

  1. That Fox News made false statements
  2. That Fox News was acting with malice when it made false statements and that those false statements caused harm.

Earlier this month, Dominion won a summary judgment for its claim that Fox News made false statements. Now, it must prove that Fox was acting with malice.

Dominion is asking for US$1.6 billion (AU$2.4 billion) in damages. Fox’s latest earnings statement estimates the business has $4 billion in cash, so this would be a huge blow to Fox’s bottom line.

What is Fox Corp’s defence?

Fox Corp have claimed Dominion cannot prove the network knowingly spread falsehoods or recklessly disregarded the truth. It also claims the case is about protecting “the rights of the free press”.

“Dominion’s lawsuit is a political crusade in search of a financial windfall, but the real cost would be cherished First Amendment rights,” Fox said in a statement. However, the Delaware Superior Court Judge has already rejected several First Amendment defenses from Fox.

The broadcaster is also saying Dominion’s damages estimate is based upon unrealistic growth projections, and has said Dominion was only worth US$80 million in 2018, but has continued to grow and post strong revenues despite the claims.

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