Fox Corp. must face a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit from Smartmatic, a New York judge ruled Wednesday, rejecting Fox News’ bid to dismiss defamation claims against its parent company.
But Smartmatic must also face Fox’s counterclaims that substantive defamation claims are intended to stifle free speech, the judge ruled separately.
The pair of orders — a win for each side — continues a long and expensive legal battle between Smartmatic and Fox News Corp., the voting company accused of rigging the 2020 election despite being used by only one US district. Covered newsworthy events and individuals related to the 2020 elections.
Smartmatic sued Fox and some of its hosts and guests in 2021; this case is at least one of 11 the ongoing election conspiracy litigation theories.
Fox lawyers had asked the court to dismiss the lawsuits against Fox Corp., arguing that the parent company, then run by executives Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch, was not legally responsible for Fox News’ broadcasts.
New York County Superior Court Judge David Cohen disagreed and dismissed the motion in a ruling Wednesday, writing that “plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged in their amended complaint that Corp employees played a positive role in the publication of the defamation at issue.”
Cohen also noted that the plaintiffs “Corp. have sufficiently alleged that their employees acted in bad faith” – this is enough to consider this matter in court.
But it also denied Smartmatic’s motion to dismiss Fox News and Fox Corp.’s counterclaims against them, in which the media company argued that Smartmatic’s claims were designed to stifle free speech.
Fox’s “argument here is that the plaintiffs’ alleged damages are so lightened by their actual lost earnings that they are pleaded and/or asked to chill the defendant’s free speech rights. This argument has not yet been resolved in any court,” the judge wrote. .
Last year, Fox Corp. agreed to pay $787.5 million Dominion Voting Systems to settle similar but separate lawsuits moments before trial in a Delaware court. In one of his Wednesday rulings, the judge wrote that the settlement between Dominion and Fox would not have a heavy impact on the current case because it was decided by the parties, not the court.
“We will be prepared to defend this extremely newsworthy case when it goes to trial, possibly in 2025,” a Fox spokeswoman said in a statement Thursday. “As shown in the report prepared by our financial expert, Smartmatic’s claims for damages are unimaginable, unrealistic, and facially intended to chill First Amendment freedoms.”