WILMINGTON, Del. – Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion civil libel lawsuit against Fox News will go to trial on Tuesday after being delayed by a day, the judge hearing 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 arrived on Sunday evening, just hours before the trial began.
The judge offered little explanation for the postponement. “It’s not a press conference, I’m not doing that,” Davis said in a courtroom mostly filled with reporters.
But he assured the court that the change in schedule was “not unusual”, noting that he had not presided over a trial for more than two weeks without suffering 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 television networks after Fox aired false allegations that the company rigged the 2020 election against former President Donald Trump.
Fox argued that Dominion failed to meet the legal standard of defamation and that statements made about Dominion on its airwaves were protected by the First Amendment.
The trial delay came as some news outlets reported that Dominion and Fox were meeting to discuss a possible settlement. Spokespersons for Fox and Dominion did not provide statements on the possibility of settlement talks.
Most defamation cases are settled out of court. But as late as Saturday, the possibility of Dominion and Fox avoiding trial seemed more unlikely than ever. “In the weeks to come, we will prove that Fox spread lies causing enormous damage to Dominion. We look forward to the trial,” a Dominion spokesperson told CNBC on Saturday morning.
On the eve of the trial — one of the most expensive and closely watched libel cases in years — Fox and Dominion clashed over the actual amount at stake.
Shortly before the hearing on Monday morning, Fox announced that Dominion was reducing its claim for damages 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 bring its claim for damages for loss of profits to the jury, since it duplicates damages for loss of business value”.
Dominion’s original lawsuit against Fox had asked the court to award damages of at least $600 million for profits the company allegedly lost as a result of lies told about it on Fox airwaves.
Fox said Farnan’s email shows Dominion will be content to pursue its billion-dollar claim for damages for “impaired business value.”
But Dominion quickly pushed back, reiterating its $1.6 billion damages claim was unchanged.
“The claim for damages remains,” a Dominion spokesperson told CNBC later Monday morning. “As Fox well knows, our damages exceed $1.6 billion.”
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