Just when it seemed like the trial for Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit against Fox News was ready to begin, the case had another surprise delay, and then a shocker: The two parties would be settling, after all.
Tuesday was to be the first official day for the high-stakes Dominion v. Fox News proceedings, in which the plaintiff sought $1.6 billion in damages from Fox for broadcasting false claims that Dominion’s voting machines had been rigged in order to steal votes from President Donald Trump during the 2020 election. Initially filed in March 2021, the suit pressed forward last month after the Delaware Superior Court ruled that a trial by jury should determine whether Fox acted maliciously when its hosts lied on air about Dominion’s activities. The trial was to be a high-profile affair, with Fox employees set to take the stand; now, the case has been settled for $787.5 million, according to Dominion lawyer Justin Nelson, speaking at a press conference just now.
In response to the news, Dominion CEO John Poulos stated that “Fox has admitted to telling lies about Dominion.” Fox put a different gloss on the settlement in a statement: “We acknowledge the court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false. This settlement reflects Fox’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards. We are hopeful that our decision to resolve this dispute with Dominion amicably, instead of the acrimony of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward from these issues.”
Here’s how the drama unfolded in the courthouse, where Slate’s Justin Peters has been posted.
At 3:54 p.m., after an unexplained delay of almost two and a half hours, Judge Eric Davis returned to Courtroom 7E and took his seat. As he did so, Dominion lawyer Justin Nelson rushed down the aisle to his seat at the front of the courtroom. “We’re lining up the jury,” Davis said, directing his next words to Nelson. “Everything good? All well?”
“Yes, your honor,” Nelson said.
“Any big difference in what we talked about earlier as to what we’re going to do?”
Nelson and opposing counsel Dan Webb briefly approached the bench. When they returned to their seats, the bailiffs brought the jury into the room, and Judge Davis spoke to them. “The parties have resolved the case, and that means that your service is done,” he said. “Your presence here was extremely important, and without you, the parties would not have been able to resolve their situation.” By 3:59 p.m., the jurors had been excused and had left the courtroom.
Before adjourning, Davis praised the assembled attorneys for the quality of their work. “I’ve been on the bench since 2012, and—I think I said this earlier—I think these are the best lawyers I’ve had, ever,” he said. “I know people have been reporting things, and they try to make it look like I’m mad, but I want to say I’ve never had this good of lawyering here in 13 years. … I just want to say I’m proud to have been your judge.”
Outside the courtroom, Slate’s reporter sat down on a bench and worked to file a quick piece. “Thank you, Jesus,” one woman was overheard saying in the empty hallway.