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Home » Are settlement talks the reason for a delay in the Fox News-Dominion Voting Systems trial?

Are settlement talks the reason for a delay in the Fox News-Dominion Voting Systems trial?

The so-called Media Trial of the Century was supposed to get underway this morning in the case of Dominion Voting Systems v. Fox News. The jury was to be selected, followed by opening statements from the lawyers.

But that will not happen today.

Will it ever happen? We shall see.

The case has been delayed for at least a day. Judge Eric Davis, who first announced the delay in a statement Sunday night, made it official in the courtroom on Monday morning. He said in court that it’s “not unusual” for a trial to be delayed, but gave no reason as to why this trial is on hold. The trial is now set to begin Tuesday morning.

The delay, plus various reports, have led to speculation that the two sides could reach a settlement to avoid trial. The Wall Street Journal — a paper owned by Rupert Murdoch, the same person who oversees Fox Corp. — was first with the news Sunday night that Fox News is making a last-minute push to settle the case.

Then, later Sunday night, The Washington Post’s Rosalind S. Helderman, Sarah Ellison and Jeremy Barr reported the trial was delayed to “allow both parties to hold conversations about the possibility of a settlement, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation.”

That does not necessarily mean a settlement is imminent. The Post reported, “… two people familiar with the case said the two sides are scheduled to meet Monday to determine if a last-minute deal to avoid trial could be brokered. One of the people said the judge had asked the parties to make a final effort to settle the issue before proceeding with a trial.”

Dominion is suing Fox News for $1.6 billion, claiming the network interviewed guests they knew were lying about the fairness of the 2020 presidential election. The guests falsely claimed Dominion’s machines helped Joe Biden defeat Donald Trump. Dominion also alleges some Fox News executives and on-air personalities endorsed the claims and kept inviting the guests on the air to placate viewers.

Fox News might have incentive to settle. Several key pretrial rulings have gone against the network and most legal experts see Dominion’s case as among the strongest defamation cases they’ve seen. A settlement would mean that some of Fox’s biggest names — including founder Rupert Murdoch and on-air hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Maria Bartiromo — would not have to give potentially embarrassing testimony.

Despite having what appears to be a strong case, Dominion also could see the benefit of an out-of-court settlement. The standard to prove “actual malice” — that, in this case, Fox News knowingly or recklessly lied and that those lies damaged Dominion’s reputation and hurt its business — is a high bar to clear. Juries are unpredictable, and any settlement agreed to by Dominion likely would result in what Dominion could claim as a victory.

Of course, whether a settlement is reached comes down to details. Because its case appears to be strong, Dominion will want hefty monetary compensation. In addition, it will surely want apologies from Fox News. What those apologies look like — perhaps including on-air and written statements — could be the difference between a settlement and a trial.

On the other side, maybe Fox News feels strong in its defense and is willing to roll the dice and let a jury decide. It also must weigh whether a settlement acknowledging any fault could alienate viewers, as well as Donald Trump.

There were no real tea leaves to read from the judge in the case on Monday morning, according to reporters in the courtroom. Davis gave no hint as to why there was a delay and told the media members in attendance, “This is not a news conference.”

CBS News’ Scott MacFarlane reported only one legal representative from both sides was in the courtroom. The rest of the legal teams were not in attendance.

Davis also reportedly told prospective jurors to not research the case.

This story is developing and may be updated.

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