Judge allows Dominion's $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox to go to trial

A Delaware choose on Friday mentioned Dominion Voting’s $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit in opposition to Fox Corp. and its networks might go to trial in April.

Decide Eric Davis of Delaware’s Superior Court docket rejected Fox’s arguments that it ought to bypass a trial because it’s protected by the First Modification. The choose granted a few of the voting machine maker’s motions, excluding its argument that Fox and its hosts acted with malice in broadcasting false claims concerning the 2020 presidential election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

The ruling comes greater than every week after Fox and Dominion’s attorneys met earlier than Davis over two days in Delaware, urging him to make a ruling reasonably than go to trial with jury in mid-April.

“We’re gratified by the Court docket’s thorough ruling soundly rejecting all of Fox’s arguments and defenses, and discovering as a matter of legislation that their statements about Dominion are false. We look ahead to going to trial,” Dominion mentioned late Friday afternoon.

Fox additionally weighed in on the choose’s ruling.

“This case is and all the time has been concerning the First Modification protections of the media’s absolute proper to cowl the information. FOX will proceed to fiercely advocate for the rights of free speech and a free press as we transfer into the following part of those proceedings,” the corporate mentioned.

Dominion introduced its lawsuit in opposition to Fox Information and Fox Enterprise, in addition to their guardian Fox Corp., in 2021, arguing the channels and their hosts pushed false claims that its voting machines had been rigged within the 2020 election that noticed Biden overcome Trump. The previous president, who was indicted Thursday in an unrelated felony matter, has repeatedly made false claims concerning the election being rigged in opposition to him.

Final yr, as a part of Dominion’s proof gathering, the corporate deposed executives at each Fox Corp. — together with Chairman Rupert Murdoch and his son and Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch — and Fox Information, in addition to the highest hosts on the community. In latest weeks, a trove of proof has been launched as a part of the case, exhibiting the hosts, in addition to Rupert Murdoch, had been skeptical of the election fraud claims being made on air.

Dominion has argued Fox defamed the corporate, affecting its enterprise, and acted with malice. Fox has argued it was reporting on newsworthy allegations, on the time stemming from Trump and attorneys, and is protected by the First Modification.

The choose pointed to the statements relating to election fraud, that Dominion manipulated vote counts via software program and algorithms, that it was based in Venezuela to rig elections on behalf of late dictator Hugo Chavez, and that it paid kickbacks to authorities officers who used the machines within the election – all of which had been mentioned on air on Fox – to be defamatory.

“The statements additionally appear to cost Dominion with the intense crime of election fraud. Accusations of felony exercise, even within the type of opinion, aren’t constitutionally protected,” Davis mentioned in courtroom papers.

Whereas the choose on Friday granted abstract judgement on a few of Dominion’s arguments, together with defamation, he did not grant one on precise malice.

As a way to win a defamation case, a plaintiff must show that the person or enterprise they’re suing knowingly made false statements that prompted hurt, and that it acted with “precise malice,” that means the speaker knew or ought to have recognized what they had been saying to be unfaithful.

Within the proof launched in latest weeks, inner textual content messages and emails between Fox executives and its hosts have proven they had been skeptical of the claims being made on air. Nonetheless, Dominion argues, Fox continued to host friends corresponding to Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who repeated faulty claims of election fraud.

Fox argued final week in courtroom that the premise of its case was “whether or not the press precisely stories the allegations, not whether or not the underlying allegations are true or false.” Attorneys have constructed the media firm’s case across the notion that “any affordable viewer” of the information would be capable to discern what was allegations or details on Fox’s networks.

In Friday’s opinion, Davis, the choose, assist there was “no clear and convincing proof of precise malice.” As an alternative, Davis mentioned it’s a matter a jury ought to resolve.

Equally, on Fox’s arguments in opposition to the $1.6 billion in damages Dominion is in search of on this case, Davis mentioned the matter is for a jury to resolve – together with the calculation of how a lot the damages ought to be.

The trial, which is predicted to final for weeks, is about to start on April 17, with a pre-trial convention and jury choice happening the week earlier than.

Dominion is requesting Fox’s prime hosts, together with Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro, in addition to former host Lou Dobbs and Fox Information CEO Suzanne Scott, seem on the stand for questioning. The depositions of each Murdochs, in addition to different Fox Corp. executives, are to be included within the trial, too.

Former Fox producer Abby Grossberg was additionally added to Dominion’s witness checklist. Grossberg, who labored on the exhibits of Bartiromo and Carlson, filed a lawsuit in opposition to Fox alleging she was coerced into offering deceptive testimony as a part of the Dominion lawsuit.

Learn the ruling.

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