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Fox-Dominion defamation trial to start Tuesday after delay, judge says

  • April 17, 2023

WILMINGTON, Del. — Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion civil defamation lawsuit against Fox News will head to trial Tuesday after being delayed by one day, the judge overseeing the case said Monday.

In a brief hearing in Delaware Superior Court, Judge Eric Davis said Monday he made the decision to delay the jury selection process and the start of opening statements. News of the delay came Sunday night, just hours before the trial was originally set to begin.

The judge offered little explanation for the postponement. “This is not a press conference, I don’t do that,” Davis told a courtroom that was mostly filled with journalists.

But he assured the court that the scheduling change was “not unusual,” noting that he has not presided over a trial longer than two weeks without experiencing a delay.

This trial is expected to last up to six weeks.

Dominion, which sells voting machines and election software, claimed it was defamed by Fox Corp. and its cable TV networks after Fox aired false claims that the company had rigged the 2020 election against former President Donald Trump.

Fox has argued that Dominion has not met the legal standard for defamation, and that the statements made about Dominion on its air were protected by the First Amendment.

The trial delay came as some news outlets have reported Dominion and Fox are meeting to discuss a possible settlement. Spokespeople for Fox and Dominion have not provided statements about the possibility of settlement talks.

Most defamation cases settle out of court. But as recently as Saturday, the possibility of Dominion and Fox avoiding trial seemed as unlikely as ever. “In the coming weeks, we will prove Fox spread lies causing enormous damage to Dominion. We look forward to trial,” a Dominion spokesman told CNBC on Saturday morning.

On the eve of the trial — one of the most expensive and closely watched defamation cases in years — Fox and Dominion clashed over just how much money is actually at stake.

Shortly before the hearing Monday morning, Fox announced that Dominion was slashing its damages claim by hundreds of millions of dollars.

Fox in a court filing shared a screenshot of an email sent Friday by Dominion attorney Brian Farnan, stating 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.”

Dominion’s original complaint against Fox had asked the court to award damages of at least $600 million for profits the company allegedly lost as a result of the lies told about it on Fox’s air.

Fox said that Farnan’s email shows Dominion will instead just be pursuing its billion-dollar claim for “lost enterprise value” damages.

But Dominion quickly pushed back, reaffirming that its $1.6 billion claim for damages was unchanged.

“The damages claim remains,” a Dominion spokesperson told CNBC later Monday morning. “As Fox well knows, our damages exceed $1.6 billion.”

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