Fox News, Dominion settle blockbuster defamation case for US$787.5 million

Billionaires

The trial was expected to start Tuesday but court was delayed for hours as the two sides worked out a last-minute settlement.
The legal team representing FOX News, including attorney Dan Webb (2nd L), leave the Leonard Williams Justice Center where Dominion Voting Systems was suing FOX News for defamation in Delaware Superior Court. Image: Getty

Dominion Voting Systems has settled its defamation lawsuit against Fox News in a last-minute move Tuesday, Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis announced, resolving one of the most high-profile defamation cases in recent history for nearly $800 million—and avoiding a weeks-long trial that would have likely put some of Fox News’ top figures on the stand and potentially led to the network being forced to pay billions in damages.

Key Facts

Dominion’s lead attorney, Justin Nelson, said at a news conference Tuesday the settlement will pay the voting machine company $787.5 million.

The possibility of a settlement first arose Sunday night, when Davis decided to delay the trial’s start date from Monday to Tuesday, amid reports that Fox was making a last-minute push for a settlement.

Dominion sued Fox for $1.6 billion in March 2021 for defamation, alleging the network pushed 2020 election fraud claims involving the company’s voting machines despite knowing they were false for financial gain.

Davis had already issued a summary judgment ruling that found Fox’s on-air claims about Dominion were false, but the trial was set to determine whether Fox had acted with “actual malice” and made the claims despite knowing they were untrue.

Dominion had previously suggested it was not open to settling the lawsuit, and the trial was slated to include testimony from such figures as Fox hosts Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham and Fox Corp. chair Rupert Murdoch.

Fox said in a statement following the settlement, “We acknowledge the Court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false”—but the media company stopped short of issuing an apology, while Dominion’s team repeatedly ignored questions at a news conference about whether Murdoch personally apologized.

Crucial Quote

“Fox has admitted to telling lies about Dominion that caused enormous damage to my company,” Dominion CEO John Poulos said.

What To Watch For

Dominion still has a string of other defamation cases over 2020 election fraud claims that remain pending, as the voting company has sued far-right attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani; MyPillow and its CEO Mike Lindell; former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne and right-wing networks One America News and Newsmax. Rival voting company Smartmatic has also sued Fox News and several of its anchors, along with other defendants, over related fraud claims involving its machines. That case is still pending, after an appeals court ruled in February it could move forward.

Key Background

Dominion’s case against Fox News garnered widespread interest as its trial neared, with court filings in the case detailing how top Fox anchors and executives had repeatedly denounced the fraud claims involving Dominion machines. Carlson called the claims “insane” and “absurd,” for instance, and Murdoch acknowledged in a deposition he didn’t believe the claims and could have stopped them from being made, but didn’t. Defamation cases are typically very hard to prove at trial, given that it’s necessary to show comments were made with “actual malice,” but legal experts had speculated before the scheduled trial that the evidence in this case may have been enough to prove Fox committed defamation.

Tangent

The news of the settlement came a week after Fox News settled a separate defamation lawsuit over the 2020 election, which was brought by a Venezuelan businessman who was linked to an election fraud conspiracy theory that Fox spread on air. The terms of the agreement are confidential, and Fox said the “matter has been resolved amicably by both sides.” The network has also settled other high-profile litigation in the past, including sexual harassment cases and a lawsuit involving a murdered Democratic aide who became the subject of right-wing conspiracy theories.

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