Election software company Dominion Voting Systems last year filed multiple defamation lawsuits against conservative news outlets, alleging the networks had parroted false claims that Dominion had switched millions of votes from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.
The claims are unsubstantiated. But with defamation notoriously difficult to prove under America’s strict legal standard, what are the chances of the court siding with Dominion?
It all depends on whether or not the company can prove the networks knowingly or recklessly spread false information.
“We told them. We told them in real time. Others told them. Government officials told them. Partisan government officials told them. People inside the Trump administration told them,” Dominion CEO John Poulos said during a recent “60 Minutes” interview. “This is not a matter of not knowing the truth. They knew the truth.”
What is Dominion Voting Systems?
According to a lawsuit filing, Dominion was founded in 2002 in Poulos’ basement in Toronto and, until recently, was one of the fastest-growing technology companies in North America.
The company supplied machines in 28 states, both red and blue. But after Dominion became a household name, the company says various state legislators have stated their intent to reassess their contracts with the company.
The company noted in a lawsuit that Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin said the state canceled its reassessment and bid process for a $100 million-plus contract with Dominion due to “the damage to voter confidence done by those who willfully spread misinformation and disinformation.”
Dominion lost another $10 million contract in Stark County, Ohio in March 2021. Projections from 2021 showed a profit loss of over $600 million over eight years.
Why is Dominion Voting suing Fox news, others?
Dominion has filed eight defamation lawsuits against various organizations and individuals including Fox News, Newsmax, One America News Network and attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell.
The cases include a $1.6 billion lawsuit filed against Fox News in March 2021, claiming the cable news network broadcast “verifiably false yet devastating lies” claiming Dominion had committed election fraud.
Fox News has denied the allegations and says it covered both sides of the story.
“We are confident we will prevail as freedom of the press is foundational to our democracy and must be protected, in addition to the damages claims being outrageous, unsupported, and not rooted in sound financial analysis, serving as nothing more than a flagrant attempt to deter our journalists from doing their jobs,” the network said in a statement.
Courts have denied various motions to dismiss the lawsuits.
What is Dominion looking for in damages?
Dominion’s lawsuits claim the networks “irreparably damaged” the company and destroyed the enterprise value of a business worth potentially more than $1 billion “before the viral disinformation campaign.”
The eight lawsuits are seeking more than $10 billion total in damages.
“Live news is challenging,” Roy Gutterman, an associate communications and law professor at Syracuse University told USA TODAY. “If this case ends up going in the plaintiff’s side, I think news organizations that do live broadcasts might want to be careful with the things that they put on the air.”
What are the odds Dominion wins its lawsuit?
In order to win its cases, Dominion must prove actual malice and show the news organizations knowingly or recklessly disregarded the truth.
It’s hard for plaintiffs to prove actual malice in most cases against news organizations, according to Lyrissa Barnett Lidsky, a law professor and chair in U.S. constitutional law at the University of Florida. Since most news outlets tend to strive to get the facts right, Lidsky said most errors tend to come from negligence, not actual malice.
But experts say Dominion may have enough to prove actual malice.
“It’s pretty rare for a plaintiff to win a defamation lawsuit against a news organization,” Lidsky said. “What makes this case really unusual is that there’s lots and lots and lots of evidence that the narrative was being spun without a lot of regard for the truth.”
Source: USA Today