April 1, 2023


Judge undercuts key Fox News defense as he sends Dominion suit to trial (Sarah Ellison, Paul Farhi and Jeremy Barr,  March 31, 2023, Washington Post)

"This is a disastrous decision for Fox," said Jonathan Peters, a media law professor at the University of Georgia. "The case isn't over, no, with the trial on the way and the likelihood of appeals, but going forward I'd much rather have Dominion's arguments."

In his ruling, Davis determined that the conservative cable-news network had undeniably broadcast falsehoods when it allowed allies of Donald Trump to float debunked claims about Dominion supposedly rigging voting machines to boost Joe Biden.

However, Davis said he will leave it to a jury to decide whether Fox knew the statements were false when they aired them or acted recklessly in doing so -- the "actual malice" standard required to prove a case of defamation.

Still, the ruling means that the case goes to the jury with other key elements already decided in Dominion's favor, said RonNell Andersen Jones, a professor and First Amendment scholar at the University of Utah law school.

For example, Davis's ruling asserts that the false statements -- such as the claim that Dominion was created in Venezuela to rig elections for socialist leader Hugo Chávez -- harmed the company's reputation, meaning that the impact on Dominion will not have to be debated at trial.

"The jury will be left to tussle with only the question of how responsible Fox Corporation is for the production and dissemination of the statements [aired on Fox News], and the question of actual malice, along with the fight over damages," Andersen Jones said.

"The checklist of things that Dominion has to prove in order to win the case has just gotten a lot shorter," said Sonja West, a law professor at the University of Georgia.

Posted by at April 1, 2023 7:10 AM