Fox Corp and Fox News have resolved a defamation lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems, the judge in the case says, averting a trial putting one of the world’s top media companies in the crosshairs over its coverage of vote-rigging claims in the 2020 US election.
The resolution, whose terms were not immediately disclosed, was announced at the 11th hour, with a 12-person jury selected on Tuesday morning and the case poised to kick off with opening statements on Tuesday afternoon.
Dominion had sought $US1.6 billion ($A2.4 billion) in damages in the lawsuit filed in 2021, with Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis presiding over the case in Wilmington.
Davis had ordered a one-day trial postponement on Monday before the delay on Tuesday, apparently as the two sides hammered out a deal.
The deal spares Fox the peril of having some of its best-known figures called to the witness stand and subjected to potentially withering questioning, from executives including Rupert Murdoch, the 92-year-old media mogul who serves as Fox Corp chairman, and Fox CEO Suzanne Scott as well as on-air hosts including Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro.
The decision to settle also followed a ruling by the judge that Fox could not invoke free speech protections under the US constitution in its defence.
At issue in the lawsuit was whether Fox was liable for airing the false claims that Denver-based Dominion’s ballot-counting machines were used to manipulate the 2020 US election in favor of Democrat Joe Biden over Republican then-president Donald Trump.
Dominion argued that these on-air claims caused the company “enormous and irreparable economic harm.”
Fox News is the most-watched US cable news network, according to Nielsen.
The primary question for jurors was to be whether Fox knowingly spread false information or recklessly disregarded the truth, the standard of “actual malice” that Dominion must show to prevail in a defamation case.
Based on a slew of internal communications, Dominion alleged that Fox staff, from newsroom employees all the way up to Murdoch, knew the statements were false but continued to air them out of fear of losing viewers to media competitors on the right.
Adding to the legal risks for Fox, another US voting technology company, Smartmatic, is pursuing its own defamation lawsuit seeking $US2.7 billion in damages in a New York state court.
Fox Corp reported nearly $US14 billion in annual revenue last year.