Fox News has agreed to pay Dominion Voting Systems a $787 million settlement, avoiding a trial in the $1.6 billion defamation case the electronic voting company brought against the cable news company.
Dominion brought a $1.6 billion lawsuit against Fox News and parent company Fox Corporation in March 2021 for defamation, accusing the news outlet of harming its reputation by airing former President Donald Trump and his attorneys’ claims that Dominion’s voting machines were used to rig the 2020 election.
Fox News has argued that Trump and his attorneys’ claims were newsworthy and protected by the First Amendment’s right of freedom of the press. However, Dominion accused Fox News and its executives of airing such claims to save their falling ratings after the 2020 election.
The parties settled on the first day of the trial, which was scheduled to start Tuesday after a 24-hour delay.
After Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis swore in the 12 jurors and alternates on Tuesday morning, court proceedings were delayed for nearly two and a half hours as attorneys for both sides engaged in last-minute negotiations.
The trial was set to start at 1:30 p.m., but Davis took the bench shortly before 4:00 p.m. and announced the parties had settled.
“The case has been resolved and it’s been resolved because of you,” Davis told the jurors.
“Your presence here… was extremely important. And without you, the parties would not have been able to resolve their situation,” Davis added.
Tuesday’s settlement avoids what was expected to be a six-week trial, which means Fox News executives and hosts like Rupert Murdoch, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and other potential witnesses will not have to testify before a jury about the network’s coverage of the 2020 election.
The trial would have featured more than 12,000 exhibits, as Dominion’s and Fox’s attorneys reportedly indicated there would be more than 7,000 and over 5,000 exhibits, respectively.
Last week, Davis sanctioned Fox News, said the outlet had a “credibility problem,” and criticized its attorneys for not being “straightforward” with the court after it was revealed that Fox News withheld evidence from Dominion and may have made “misrepresentations to the court” about Murdoch’s role at Fox News.
The last-minute settlement includes a $787.5 million payment from Fox, Dominion attorney Justin Nelson announced.
“Fox has admitted to telling lies about Dominion that caused enormous damage to my company, our employees, and the customers that we serve,” Dominion CEO John Poulos said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon. “Nothing can ever make up for that.”
“I cannot thank the election officials that we serve enough. Without them, there is no democracy,” Poulos added.
However, Dominion attorney Stephen Shackelford warned that the settlement with Fox is not the end of the company’s legal efforts to save its reputation.
“We’re not done yet. We have some other people who have some accountability coming toward them,” Shackelford said.
A Fox spokesperson said the company is “pleased” to settle the case and acknowledged the court’s findings that “certain claims about Dominion” were false.
The Fox spokesperson said:
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.
Fox Corporation had roughly $4.1 billion “of cash and cash equivalents” on hand at the end of 2022, the New York Times reported.
First Amendment attorney Martin Garbus told the Times that “everybody wins” with Tuesday’s settlement.
“With the settlement, everybody wins. Fox goes its way. Dominion gets cash,” Garbus said.
Fox is facing a similar defamation lawsuit against electronic voting firm Smartmatic, which sued the cable news company in February 2021 over fraud claims.