The Largest Defamation Settlement in US History
This article explains the largest defamation settlement in US history between Dominion Voting Systems and Fox News network.
On April 18th Fox settled an enormous defamation lawsuit against Dominion Voting Systems, a voting-technology firm, for $787.5 million. Dominion brought proceedings against Fox accusing the network of lying that Dominion’s machines had gifted the election to Joe Biden.
The $787.5 million settlement is half of Dominion’s original claim of $1.6 billion. However, this is significantly smaller than the $2.7 billion (£2.2 billion) claim of Smartmatic against Fox, another voting-technology company, due to be heard in 2025.
The amount paid is the largest defamation settlement in the history of American media. In fact, the second largest defamation settlement pales in comparison to the ($177 million settlement paid by ABC News to Beef Products Inc). The settlement is about a quarter of Fox’s revenue figure for last year, making it relatively negligible to Fox according to some academics.
During the negotiations, one of Dominion’s main points was that they required Fox to make a public apology admitting wrongdoing. This was not something Fox could accommodate, but with the settlement figure increasing as the trial neared, the parties agreed on a compromise of an acknowledgment from Fox. This was that it understood Judge Davis’ pretrial rulings, namely the fact that the defamatory conspiracies surrounding Dominion which Fox had aired were objectively false. The settlement came just hours after the jury had been sworn in at the Delaware Superior Court.
What Is Defamation and How Does It Differ Between the UK and US
A defamatory statement can be either written (libel) or oral (slander). Here in the UK, under the Defamation Act 2013, a statement is “not defamatory unless its publication has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant.” This serious harm in the case of a company must have either caused or is likely to cause a company serious financial loss.
The onus of proving whether the statement is true, an honest opinion, or matter of public interest is on the accused party.
In the US, defamation is significantly harder to prove due to the American Constitution’s First Amendment protections for free speech and freedom of the press. In the US legal system, it is the claimant that has the burden of proof to show the statement in question was false. Furthermore, they must prove that the publisher was negligent as well as proving damage to the reputation of the claimant. Despite the additional hurdles for proving defamation in the US, Dominion was able to overcome those difficulties. Smartmatic’s case appears equally strong.
Similarity to the News International Phone Hacking Scandal
The Fox-Dominion case bears great similarity to the News International Phone Hacking Scandal that broke out in the UK in 2011. Both Fox and The News of the World newspaper, now defunct, is owned by American billionaire, businessman and media proprietor Rupert Murdoch.
Like the News of the World scandal, the Fox lawsuit exposed through the documents revealed pre-trial, the extent to which Fox was motivated by a desire to please its audience and to compete with the opposition to obtain a competitive advantage. The News of the World scandal (which Taylor Hampton Solicitors was instrumental in exposing) also revealed the extent to which the newspaper was willing to hack into the mobile phones of celebrities and others to similarly obtain a competitive advantage, regardless of the consequences.
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To learn more about the work of Taylor Hampton Solicitors in connection with the phone hacking please click here for the services offered by Taylor Hampton.
For anyone who believes they have been the subject of defamation or hacking, please contact Taylor Hampton Solicitors on 02074275970.