A Delaware Superior Court judge ruled on Friday afternoon that the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit Dominion Voting Systems has waged against Fox News and Fox Corp. will go to trial in April.
Judge Eric Davis heard oral arguments for summary judgment in mid-March, unexpectedly extending into a nearly two-day hearing. Dominion and Fox each filed a motion for a summary judgment, asking the judge to make a decision on the case and avoid going to trial.
Davis, in his opinion, denied the summary judgment motions submitted by Fox News and Fox Corp. Dominion did have some minor wins, with the judge granting certain aspects of its motion and denying others.
Summary judgment background:A Delaware judge will decide if the $1.6 billion Fox News defamation lawsuit goes to trial
While a last minute settlement is still possible, the six-week trial is scheduled to begin April 17. It will be one of the most high-profile trials held in Delaware. The outcome could be a massive financial blow to the country’s most watched cable news network.
Dominion has argued that evidence shows how top Fox executives and hosts privately communicated that they did not believe then-President Donald Trump and allies’ election fraud allegations. Yet Fox continued to give airtime to these claims.
Fox lawyers have said the network and corporation are protected under the First Amendment. A “reasonable viewer”, they said, would understand that Fox hosts did not present these claims to be fact but rather allegations made by Trump associates. They argued Fox was covering the biggest news story of the day.
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Ahead of the trial, one of the biggest questions is who will testify. Davis, the judge, has said he has the power to compel Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch to testify in the trial. Fox lawyers have argued against this, saying there is “no reason” for him to do so since he already gave a seven-hour deposition.
Murdoch, in this deposition, acknowledged that Fox News hosts “endorsed” the false claims of the election being stolen. He said he could have done more to stop it but did not.
Fox News hosts, including Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson, could also testify on the stand.
The judge said Dominion proved that Fox aired false information about the company, and its role in the outcome of the election, on its broadcasts.
“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,” he wrote.
Davis denied Dominion summary judgment relating to “actual malice,” writing that this issue needs to be determined by a jury. This legal standard is key in proving defamation occurred. Dominion would have to prove that Fox knowingly published false information about the voting machine company or recklessly disregarded information showing that the claims were not true.
This story will be updated.