Fox News False Election Claims Trial Start Pushed To Tuesday, Judge Confirms; Settlement Talk Speculation Swirls; Fox Claims Dominion Has Reduced Its Claim Of Damages – Update

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Fox News False Election Claims Trial Start Pushed To Tuesday, Judge Confirms; Settlement Talk Speculation Swirls; Fox Claims Dominion Has Reduced Its Claim Of Damages – Update

By Dominic PattenTed JohnsonApril 17, 2023 6:25am

UPDATE, 6:25 AM: Speculation was still rampant that settlement talks are ongoing in Dominion’s big bucks’ lawsuit against Fox News over false 2020 election claims, but a Delaware judge this morning had nothing new to say publicly about the now postponed high-profile trial that was to start Monday.

Short and perhaps not too sweet, today’s highly anticipated hearing began with Judge Eric M Davis reiterating his statement from last night that the start of the $1.6 billion trial would be pushed back a day until April 18. “I have made the decision to delay the start of the trial until tomorrow,” the Delaware judge told a packed Wilmington courtroom and media overflow room, after a brief morning sidebar with attorneys.





Jury Selection Begins In Dominion-Fox News Defamation Trial

With drama right out of HBO’s Succession and the never-ending real-life saga of Rupert Murdoch, expectations had reached almost fever pitch that some sort of 11th hour agreement to keep the media mogul from testifying and more potential Fox News dirty laundry being aired was forthcoming. And it still might be, but not in court today.

“We will stand in recess until tomorrow at 9 AM,” Judge Davis added Monday, bringing the brief hearing to an anti-climatic close. Unless something changes in the next 24 hours, jury selection will start Tuesday, followed by opening arguments in the late morning for what is scheduled as an approximately  six-week trial.

Commencing yet another round of rumors and speculation on whether a settlement was imminent, today’s hearing on the eve of opening statements also comes after Fox flagged an email from Dominion that the network says shows that the voting software company is seeking much less in damages.

This weekend Fox attorneys submitted a motion for clarification that contained information that Dominion “will not be presenting its claim for lost profits damages to the jury, given that it is duplicative of the lost enterprise value damages,” according to an April 14 email from the plaintiff’s lawyers to the Fox team. Facing almost certain bombardment from Fox in trial that Dominion is asking too much, this latest move appears to the financial compensation that Dominion is seeking by more than half a billion dollars a.k.a $600,00,000 – no small sum.

A Dominion spokesperson said in a statement, “The damages claim remains. As Fox well knows, our damages exceed $1.6 billion.”

Additionally, Fox’s April 16 filing pivots to a new-ish position by the company that puts Trump himself at the center of the controversy. In terms of what evidence can or cannot be introduced, the Murdoch’s multi-firm legal team want Judge Davis “to clarify whether it is precluding Fox from introducing evidence that others (including President Trump) made the same claims about Dominion to rebut Dominion’s malice case.” The filing goes on to say: “If the answer is yes, Fox asks the Court to reconsider that decision.”

The trial is drawing a large media presence, with reporters lined up in the early morning hours to make sure they will get a seat in the courtroom, and TV news crews set up under tents in the courtyard in front of the Leonard Williams Justice Center on King Street.

The locale of proceedings is a bit ironic, given that the defamation trial is about the false claims that Dominion had a role in rigging the election in favor of Joe Biden. Just across the street is the backside of the Queen Theater, a frequent spot for Biden to hold news conferences, interviews and other events during the 2020 campaign. Just a couple of miles away is the Chase Center, where on Nov. 7, 2020, Biden and Kamala Harris celebrated their election victory.

PREVIOUSLY, APRIL 16, 5:24 PM: The start of the Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation trail against Fox News over false election claims that was to start Monday has now been delayed until Tuesday.

The delay immediately triggered speculation that some sort of settlement talks are the works, as is not unusual at the last minute before high stakes and big bucks litigation heads to trial. A well informed legal source said that there were talks but no deal, and that the situation remains fluid.

“The Court has decided to continue the start of the trial, including jury selection, until Tuesday, April 18, 2023 at 9:00 a.m.,” Judge Eric M. Davis said late Sunday in a statement. “I will make such an announcement tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. in Courtroom 7E.”

A spokesperson for Dominion declined comment, and a spokesperson for Fox News did not immediately return a request for comment. Having said that a settlement also would not be unusual for the network and parent Fox Corp., which is also a defendant in the case.

Just last week, Fox News settled a defamation lawsuit brought by Venezuelan businessman Majed Khalil, who sued the network over a Lou Dobbs broadcast and tweet linking him to election rigging. Rupert Murdoch’s media empire also settled litigation stemming from the British phone hacking scandal a decade ago.

A jury in the Dominion case was to be selected by the end of last week, but Judge Davis later on Thursday pushed the final phase of that process to Monday.

Dominion sued Fox News and later its parent company, Fox Corp., claiming that its hosts and guests amplified false claims that the election systems company was involved in rigging the results of the 2020 presidential election. Fox News contends it was merely covering the newsworthy allegations being made by Donald Trump.

Given the stakes, some had dubbed the case the “defamation trial of the century,” with the prospect that Murdoch will be compelled to testify live, while a host of Fox News personalities including Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham are on the witness list.

Fox also has seen some legal setbacks in the past week.

In a pre-trial hearing, Davis made it clear that he would not allow Fox to use one of its made defenses, that the newsworthiness of Trump’s election claims absolved it of liability for defamation. The judge also was upset with Fox’s legal team after they only recently disclosed to him that Murdoch was an officer not just of Fox Corp., the network’s parent company, but of Fox News. Davis said that he planned to point a special master to investigate whether Fox attorneys withheld evidence at key points of the discovery process. An attorney for Fox filed a letter with the court apologizing to the judge.

In a summary judgment ruling, the judge also ruled that it was “crystal clear that none of the statements relating to Dominion about the 2020 election are true.” And he also rejected Fox’s argument that it was shielded from liability due to a “neutral” report privilege as well as for coverage of official proceedings.

Sources have said that Fox has previously pursued a settlement with Dominion, but the voting software company has rejected the overtures.

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