WILMINGTON, Del. — Fox News and Dominion Voting Systems
The settlement came after a bruising week for Fox News. During pretrial conference hearings, Davis sanctioned the network for withholding evidence, and admonished it for not being straightforward with him. He said he would allow Dominion to conduct an additional deposition with Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch at Fox’s expense. Davis also ruled that Fox lawyers could not use newsworthiness as a legal defense, limiting their possible trial strategies.
On Tuesday, Davis also appointed a special master to investigate whether Fox had adequately complied with court-ordered discovery. That probe was ended by the settlement, too.
Few defamation suits make it this far, but outside legal experts say the case — and the extraordinary claims and evidence fueling it — was unique.
The settlement is a strong outcome for Dominion, those experts said, which won’t have to wait years for a potential jury-awarded payout stuck in the appeals process.
Not all settlement terms are disclosed, but experts say they believe Fox’s payout to be among the biggest.
“This number is not small,” said RonNell Andersen Jones, a professor at the University of Utah College of Law who specializes in the First Amendment. “It might be the biggest of its kind in history.”
Juries are always a risk, especially in a politically divisive case, she added.
“While going to a jury based on ‘presumed damages’ and malice often results in tremendous damages, it’s still a crapshoot,” Anthony Michael Glassman, a longtime media lawyer who has represented both news outlets and the subjects of stories, said in an email.
A hefty settlement without a trial “is the right way to go,” he added.