The judge overseeing Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News delayed the start of the trial until Tuesday amid reported settlement talks.
Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis announced on Sunday that the start of the trial would be delayed by 24 hours after it was scheduled to kick off on Monday. No official reason was given for the delay but The Washington Post reported that the trial was postponed to allow both parties to discuss a potential settlement in the case.
The weeks-long trial was set to commence Monday morning, with Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch reportedly set to testify as early as the first day. Fox stars like Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Maria Bartiromo were also expected to take the witness stand during the trial.
Instead, the two sides will meet Monday to determine if a “last-minute deal to avoid trial could be brokered,” the Post reported, citing two sources familiar with the case. One of the sources added that Davis asked the two sides to try to make one final push for a settlement before proceeding to trial.
Fox and Dominion previously entered mediation around December 2022 but were unable to reach a settlement.
Fox has already pursued settlement talks on “multiple occasions,” according to media reporter Brian Stelter. “Dominion, knowing it has tremendous leverage, held firm.”
Since then, Fox has been hit by repeated adverse rulings from the judge. Davis ruled that Fox’s statements about Dominion at the heart of the lawsuit were false, meaning that Dominion would only have to prove that the network acted with “actual malice.” Davis last week also ordered an investigation into whether Fox withheld key evidence during discovery.
Fox has denied that they defamed the company, arguing that they were merely reporting on notable allegations as protected under the First Amendment. The network claimed it complied with all of its discovery obligations.
Pre-trial discovery revealed troves of internal messages showing that Fox executives and hosts trashed the same debunked conspiracy theories they aired while expressing concerns that fact-checking the false claims would draw former President Donald Trump’s ire and potentially send viewers to even more pro-Trump outlets.
Dominion officials have said “they would not settle without a full-throated apology and acknowledgment from Fox that it aired false information — a position that could put the network at odds with many viewers and Trump, who is again running for president,” according to the Post.
Former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman tweeted that the case could be a candidate for a settlement because “Dominion has a killer case on liability but seeking damages that are hard to justify.”
A big settlement offer from Fox “could make sense for both,” he wrote.
Attorney Bradley Moss added that “trials are a wild card” and there is a “non-trivial chance the pre-trial rulings get reversed on appeal and the whole thing is tossed.”
Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti wrote that Fox “should have pursued this strategy long ago, settling before damaging emails and texts became part of the public record.”
Former federal prosecutor Elie Honig, a CNN legal analyst, said on Sunday that “there’s something about being on the eve of trial that can really sober up both parties.”
“Look at it from Fox’s point of view: they’re looking at the likelihood — if there’s a trial — of having all of their, or many of their, most prominent anchors have to take the stand, testify and get cross-examined. You can understand why they would be hit by reality at the last moment, say, ‘We need to avoid this,’” Honig said, adding that Dominion “has a very strong case here for defamation.”