Fox must pay $787.5 million in a last-minute settlement agreement reached April 18 in Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit against Fox News and its parent corporation, marking the end of a highly anticipated trial before it even began.
“The truth matters,” Dominion lawyer Justin Nelson said outside the courthouse before announcing the settlement amount, according to the New York Times. “Lies have consequences.” The settlement, Nelson added, “represents vindication and accountability.”
Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric M. Davis informed the courtroom of the agreement just before 4 p.m., as attorneys from both sides prepared to make their opening statements. Talks of a possible settlement filled the courtroom prior to Judge Davis’ announcement, as an unexplained delay in proceedings raised questions for reporters. The delay followed a lunch break that was expected to end at 1:30 p.m., but Judge Davis didn’t return for two and a half hours.
Read more of First Amendment Watch’s coverage of the lawsuit here
Fox Corporation released a statement following the settlement announcement, stating “We are pleased to have reached a settlement of our dispute with Dominion Voting Systems. We acknowledge the court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false. This settlement reflects Fox’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards. We are hopeful that our decision to resolve this dispute with Dominion amicably, instead of the acrimony of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward from these issues.”
According to the Times, Dominion’s chief executive John Poulos described the settlement as “historic,” since “Fox has admitted to telling lies about Dominion.” But, the voting technology company’s legal team did not answer as to whether Fox will issue an apology for airing the falsities.
Dominion sued the network and the corporation that owns it in March 2021 for $1.6 billion, after the network alleged that Dominion’s technology was used to rig the 2020 presidential election. During the trial, 12 jurors would have had to decide if Dominion could prove, under the New York Times v. Sullivan standard of “actual malice,” whether Fox aired those falsehoods about Dominion knowing that they were false or with reckless disregard for the truth.
For months, this case has made headlines as the pre-trial deposition testimony from Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch and Fox hosts provided a behind-the-scenes look into the networks’ actions and motivations. But without a trial, these testimonies will never be heard in open court.
While a settlement was reached in this case, another lawsuit involving a separate voting technology company is underway, with similar claims. Smartmatic sued Fox News, three of the network’s hosts, and two of its guests in February 2021 for $2.7 billion claiming the network spread false rumors that the company’s technology was used to rig the election in favor of President Joe Biden.
“Dominion’s litigation exposed some of the misconduct and damage caused by Fox’s disinformation campaign,” a spokesperson for Smartmatic said in a statement to the Times. “Smartmatic will expose the rest.”
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