Fox News defamation case headed to trial after judge rejects motion to dismiss
March 31, 2023 Updated Fri., March 31, 2023 at 8:14 p.m.
NEW YORK – A Delaware judge denied Fox News’ motion to dismiss Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation suit against the network on Friday, sending the case to trial.
A jury will be asked to determine whether the network committed actual malice when it presented false voter fraud allegations in the 2020 election.
The ruling by Justice Eric M. Davis issued Friday granted Dominion’s contention that Fox News published false information about the voting machine company in the weeks after the election, when outgoing President Donald Trump and his allies spread the false allegations.
“The evidence developed in this civil proceeding demonstrates that is CRYSTAL clear that none of the Statements relating to Dominion about the 2020 election are true,” Davis wrote in an order.
In the wake of the election, Trump’s attorneys repeatedly said Dominion manipulated votes to swing the race to President Joe Biden and made other false statements about the company’s ownership.
Davis did not grant summary judgment to Dominion on the company’s claims that Fox News acted with malice when it presented the falsehoods, an issue that now will be weighed at trial. The jury also will decide if Dominion is entitled to any damages.
“The parties have generated a record that shows disputed material facts,” Davis wrote.
The jury trial in Delaware is expected to begin April 17, in what is likely to be a media spectacle.
Executives and high-profile Fox News anchors, who have already given explosive deposition testimony, could be called to the witness stand to discuss their actions in public, under oath.
“We are gratified by the Court’s thorough ruling soundly rejecting all of Fox’s arguments and defenses, and finding as a matter of law that their statements about Dominion are false,” a Dominion representative said. “We look forward to going to trial.”
A Fox News representative said, “This case is and always has been about the First Amendment protections of the media’s absolute right to cover the news. Fox will continue to fiercely advocate for the rights of free speech and a free press as we move into the next phase of these proceedings.”
Fox News has argued that the allegations presented on the network by Trump and his attorneys were newsworthy – even if untrue – and that the network’s reporting was protected by the First Amendment.
The company cited “neutral reportage privilege,” which protects media organizations against libel claims if they accurately and objectively report newsworthy charges made against public figures as part of an ongoing controversy.
Davis rejected that defense, saying it fails to shield Fox News from liability.
Dominion’s legal team countered that Fox News has gone far beyond that realm because it presented the voter fraud claims and Dominion’s alleged involvement well after the allegations were dismissed by government agencies, producers and journalists inside the network.
Davis ruled “the record is clear” that Fox News aired the statements and that in defamation claims, “All who take part in the procurement, composition and publication of a libel are responsible in law and equally so.”
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