December 10, 2023

Fox News disputed possible damages if the company is found liable in a highly anticipated defamation trial for spreading misinformation after the 2020 presidential election, while the judge in the case delayed the opening of the case time. sky.

The trial delay, and Fox’s claim for possible damages, is the latest twist in the case. Later Sunday, Judge Eric M. Davis said the proceedings would continue on Tuesday. He gave no reason at the time and did not speak briefly from the bench just after 9 a.m. on Monday.

“That doesn’t seem unusual to me,” Judge Davis said, explaining that he rarely attends trials without some sort of delay. “I’m going to continue this thing until tomorrow.”

In a trial involving such significant losses, it is not unusual for opponents to seek last-minute settlement talks.

However, three people directly involved in the case said a settlement was not expected. Lawyers for Dominion Voting Systems, which is suing Fox, filed a request to the court Monday morning, indicating they expect the case to go to trial on Tuesday.

Dominion set the fine in the case at $1.6 billion. But controversy over that figure erupted after Fox disputed Dominion’s value, noting that a recent legal filing by Dominion lowered some of its damages claims.

“Fox has made it clear that Dominion’s losses are overstated,” a Fox spokesman said.

But damages are up to a jury and could be higher.

A Dominion spokesman disputed Fox’s characterization in its court filings. “Claims for damages remain,” she said. “As Fox knows, our losses exceed $1.6 billion.”

It’s not just money that has so far made it difficult to reach a settlement. Fox, one of the most profitable media companies, will have to apologize to Dominion on terms acceptable to Dominion, according to several people familiar with the limited settlement discussions in previous months.

But doing so would have cost Fox News enormous reputational damage, and Fox News has continued to air shows questioning the culpability of Trump supporters for the Jan. 6, 2021 riots.

At the same time, both parties have some incentive to reach an agreement. Fox may want to avoid a trial, where more embarrassing or damaging details about its operations could emerge. Dominion may hope to secure some financial payments and avoid possible years of appeals after winning a jury trial.

The case has opened an unprecedented window into the inner workings of the country’s leading conservative news network. On the eve of the trial, Fox turned over tens of thousands of emails and text messages exchanged between hosts, producers and executives. Many of them said there was widespread suspicion within the network that former President Donald J. Trump had lied about claiming he had been hoodwinked into winning.

The case is considered a landmark test of First Amendment protections for the media and has been closely watched by legal and media analysts. Dominion’s voting machines have become the focus of pro-Trump conspiracy theories that falsely implicate the company’s technology in a fictional plot to shift votes from Mr. Trump to President Biden.

On Monday, the courtroom was packed with journalists from around the world, waiting to hear when they would hear opening statements from both sides and the reason for the delay.

Bold names from Fox News — hosts including Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Maria Bartiromo, and Rupert Murdoch, whose family controls Fox Media Reich – Expected to testify if the case goes to trial.

Election technology company Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against Fox in early 2021, alleging that Fox’s hosts and guests, knowing of the allegations, repeatedly falsely claimed their role in a fictitious conspiracy to steal the election, facilitated by Mr. . Trump and his supporters, are not true.

Fox said it was covering newsworthy allegations involving the presidential election and insisted its broadcasts were protected by the First Amendment as commentary and news.

But Fox has encountered many setbacks in its legal case. Judge Davis ruled in a pretrial hearing that the claims about Dominique were false and that the jury only had to consider whether Fox had intentionally broadcast them. The judge also set the boundaries on the First Amendment defense that Fox could rely on, ruling that it cannot use free speech protections because the statements are false.

In emailed statements over the weekend, both sides appeared to be ready to go to trial.

“Over the next few weeks, we will demonstrate that the lies spread by Fox have done enormous damage to Dominion,” a Dominion spokesman said. “We look forward to the trial.”

A Fox spokesman said the network “remains steadfast in protecting the right to a free press, as the sentencing against Dominion and its private equity owners will have serious consequences for the entire news industry.”

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