A Delaware judge on Friday dismissed Dominion Voting’s $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit Fox Corp. and its networks could face trial in April.
Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis dismissed Fox’s arguments that it should avoid litigation because it is protected under the First Amendment. The judge granted some of the voting machine manufacturer’s motions, except for his argument that Fox and its hosts acted maliciously in spreading false claims about the 2020 presidential election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
The ruling comes more than a week after lawyers for Fox and Dominion met in Delaware for two days in front of Davis and urged him to make a decision instead of going before the jury in mid-April.
“We are pleased with the court’s thorough ruling, which dismisses all of Fox’s arguments and defenses and legally finds that their statements about Dominion are false. We look forward to going to court,” Dominion said late Friday afternoon.
Fox also weighed the judge’s verdict.
“In this case, what was and always has been about the First Amendment’s protection of the media’s absolute right to cover the news. ‘ the company said.
Dominion filed its lawsuit against Fox News and Fox Business and its parent company, Fox Corp. in 2021, arguing that the broadcasters and their hosts made false claims that their voting machines had been rigged in the 2020 election, in which Biden triumphed over Trump. The former president, who was charged in an unrelated criminal case on Thursday, has made repeated false claims that the election against him was rigged.
Last year, as part of Dominion’s evidence gathering, the company questioned Fox Corp executives. — including chairman Rupert Murdoch and his son and Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch — and deposed Fox News and the network’s top presenters. A wealth of evidence has been released in recent weeks as part of the case, showing the hosts, as well as Rupert Murdoch, were skeptical of the voter fraud allegations made on the air.
Dominion has argued Fox defamed the company, harmed its business and acted with malice. Fox has argued that it covered newsworthy allegations made by Trump and lawyers at the time and is protected by the First Amendment.
The judge referred to allegations of electoral fraud that Dominion manipulated vote counts through software and algorithms, that it was formed in Venezuela to rig elections on behalf of the late dictator Hugo Chavez, and that it paid bribes to government officials who used the machines Wahl – all of which aired on Fox – as defamatory.
“The comments also appear to charge Dominion with the serious crime of voter fraud. Allegations of criminal activity, even in the form of opinions, are not constitutionally protected,” Davis said in court filings.
While Friday’s judge condemned some of Dominion’s arguments, including defamation, in summary judgment, he did not find any on the grounds of actual malice.
To win a defamation case, a plaintiff must show that the person or entity they are suing knowingly made false statements that caused harm and acted with “actual malice,” meaning: that the speaker knew or should have known what they were saying to be untrue.
In evidence released in recent weeks, internal text messages and emails between Fox executives and its hosts have shown they were skeptical of claims made on the air. Still, Dominion argues, Fox has continued to host guests like Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who have repeated erroneous allegations of voter fraud.
Fox argued in court last week that the basis of his case was “whether the press reports the allegations correctly, not whether the underlying allegations are true or false.” Lawyers built the media company’s case around the notion that “any reasonable viewer” of the news would be able to discern what allegations or facts were on Fox’s networks.
In Freitag’s opinion, Justice Davis, there was “no clear and compelling evidence of actual malice.” Instead, Davis said it was a matter for a jury to decide.
Similarly, on Fox’s arguments against the $1.6 billion in damages Dominion is seeking in this case, Davis said the matter should be decided by a jury — including the calculation of the amount of damages.
The trial, which is expected to last for weeks, is scheduled to begin on April 17, with a pre-trial conference and jury selection taking place a week before.
Dominion is asking Fox’s top presenters, including Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro, as well as former presenter Lou Dobbs and Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott to come to the booth for questioning. The testimonies of the two Murdochs and other Fox Corp. should also be included in the process.
Former Fox producer Abby Grossberg was also added to Dominion’s witness list. Grossberg, who worked on the Bartiromo and Carlson shows, filed a lawsuit against Fox alleging she was forced to make misleading statements as part of the Dominion lawsuit.
Read the verdict.