After its $787.5 million Fox settlement, what’s next for Dominion?
Dominion Voting Systems did more than settle its $787.5 million lawsuit against Fox News Tuesday: It also set the tone for the many related defamation lawsuits it has filed.
Legal experts say the settlement with Fox News, one of the biggest payoffs for defamation in American history, could embolden Dominion as it continues to defend its reputation, which it says was tarnished by conspiracy theories of voter fraud during the 2020 election. The company has several cases pending against public figures including Mike Lindell, the manager of MyPillow, and news outlets such as Newsmax.
The targets of Dominion’s remaining lawsuits, few of which have deep pockets and legal firepower at Fox’s level, will likely be modeled after Dominion’s confrontation with Fox, legal experts said.
“While it was a settlement, it was certainly a victory for Dominion,” said Margaret M. Russell, law professor at Santa Clara University. “For other potential defendants, I don’t think that will double that; it will make them anxious.”
Dominion is the second largest voting technology company operating in the United States, where there are few other major players. The company, which is majority owned by private equity firm Staple Street Capital, became “toxic” over the false fraud stories of 2020, one of Staple Street’s founders said in court documents. At one point, Dominion estimated that misinformation had cost it $600 million in profit.
Fox said in its court filings that Dominion had not laid off employees, closed offices, defaulted on debt, or suffered any canceled business contracts as a result of the news channel’s coverage. Fox said in a filing that Dominion forecast sales of $98 million for 2022, which Tuesday’s statement would equate to eight years of sales.
Dominion’s customers are mostly government officials who oversee state and county voting across the country; The company served 28 states as well as Puerto Rico in the 2020 election. The false stories of fraud aimed at the company were applauded by some local election officials.
Dominion’s defamation lawsuit against Fox News
Fox News will pay $787.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by Dominion alleging election misinformation and avert a landmark lawsuit.
In court documents, an expert hired by Dominion said the company had very low early termination rates and very high contract renewal rates ahead of the 2020 election, but blamed dealing with the false fraud allegations for prompting some customers to pursue deals to end the voting.
Now Dominion has emerged from its battle with Fox in a stronger position to win back shy customers or land new deals, legal experts said.
Last month, the judge in Dominion’s case against Fox reviewed evidence supporting the false claims and wrote that it is “CRYSTAL clear that none of the statements made regarding Dominion about the 2020 election are true,” effectively confirming that the company has been decent.
New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver welcomed Tuesday’s agreement.
“The damage done by election lies/denial since 2020 is immeasurable, but this settlement against Fox News provides accountability and sends a strong message that we love to see,” Ms Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, wrote on Twitter. During last year’s midterm primary, she blamed “baseless conspiracy theories” when she sued Otero County officials who cited concerns about Dominion machines in their refusal to confirm election results.
Fox acknowledged in a statement on Tuesday that some of the claims it had made about Dominion were false, saying the admission “reflects Fox’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards.”
Dominion founder and chief executive John Poulos said in a statement Tuesday that Fox had caused “tremendous damage” to his company and that “nothing can undo it.” He also thanked the election officials who make up Dominion’s clientele and nodded to Staple Street’s support.
Dominion drew some complaints that the settlement gave up an opportunity to extort an apology from Fox or coerce it through a potentially embarrassing lawsuit. An opinion piece in The Daily Beast lamented that the voting technology company “decided to step out of the ring with a bag of cash rather than take down one of the country’s most destructive and influential peddlers of hate and disinformation.”
Mr Poulos called the deal “a major step forward for democracy” in an interview with ABC News that aired on Wednesday.
Legal experts noted that even if Dominion had prevailed by jury, it would have risked years of expensive battles over Fox’s appeals.
“The tort of defamation is not about saving democracy from liars,” said Enrique Armijo, a professor and First Amendment expert at Elon University School of Law. “It’s about saving the reputations of the people who have been lied about and getting those liars to compensate them for the damage done to their reputations.”
Fox is still facing other legal challenges, including a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit from another voting tech company, Smartmatic. Fox said it plans to defend press freedom in the case, calling Smartmatic’s claims for damages “outrageous, unsubstantiated and not based on sound financial analysis”.
Smartmatic said in a statement that after the Dominion settlement, it will uncover “the remainder” of the “misconduct and harm caused by Fox’s disinformation campaign.”
Dominion also has other lawsuits pending, including against pro-Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani and One America News Network. Although the lawsuits make similar false allegations of voter fraud, the facts of each case differ, experts said.
Attorneys for Mr. Lindell and Mr. Giuliani did not immediately respond to requests for comment, nor did Newsmax or OAN.
For individuals and smaller businesses facing legal claims and for whom a significant jury verdict could pose an “existential” threat, a settlement after Tuesday might appear more appealing, Mr Armijo said.
“They won’t be able to put up the same level of defense as Fox; They just don’t have the resources to do it,” he said. “It’s hard to see the other defamation defendants getting any further than Fox in the remaining cases, which as we’ve seen isn’t very far.”