A civil lawsuit was scheduled to begin on Monday morning local time in the US state of Delaware that would test the extent of the right to free speech for the US media: Dominion Voting Systems v. Fox News. The voting machine manufacturer from Canada accuses the news broadcaster of having spread the lie of former US President Donald Trump that the Canadian company’s machines were used to “falsify” the results of the 2020 presidential election – even though the broadcaster knew exactly that the allegations were unfounded. Dominion is therefore demanding $1.6 billion in damages from Fox News.

But shortly before the scheduled start of the trial, Judge Eric Davis surprisingly announced on Sunday evening that the court had decided to postpone the start of the trial to Tuesday, April 18, 2023 at 9 a.m. “I will be making such an announcement tomorrow at 9 a.m. in Courtroom 7E,” Davis said, without giving a reason for the delay.

The reason could be that Fox News wants to settle out of court with Dominion at the last second, as the Reuters news agency now reports, citing a source familiar with the matter. Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s station is in talks about a comparison with the Canadians. The “Washington Post” and the “Wall Street Journal”, which belongs to the Murdoch empire, also report, citing anonymous sources, that Fox is aiming for settlement talks.

The events of the past few days at Fox News may have raised doubts about his chances of success in the process: “Throughout the case, Dominion seemed very motivated to take it out on a public stage and correct the overall picture of election denial,” quoted the US Broadcaster CNN RonNell Anderson Jones, Professor of Law at the University of Utah. “But Fox may have a far greater incentive to act on Dominion’s demands after a very tough week of pre-trial hearings, and especially given the recent revelations from the former employee who is now in Dominion’s warehouse.”

By the employee who switched camps, Jones is referring to Abby Grossberg, a former Fox producer. Grossberg claims that when she testified in the Dominion case, attorneys for the network urged her to protect Fox News and its anchors.

Judge Davis also said just a few days ago that Fox News and its parent company Fox Corp. had given false information to the court and delayed the submission of evidence. He is therefore considering further investigations and a complaint. The broadcaster therefore officially apologized to the judge on Sunday.

Fox claims it didn’t support Trump’s lie about the stolen election, just reported on it. The broadcaster relies on the first US constitutional amendment, which protects freedom of expression. However, Murdoch has admitted under oath that prominent Fox News anchors “supported” false allegations of cheating on their programs after the election, according to a court document released in late February.

In mid-February, a Dominion court document made it clear that Murdoch and well-known Fox News figures considered the allegations made by Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani to be nonsensical. Murdoch, for example, described the claims internally as “crazy” and “damaging”.

If Fox and Dominion fail to reach an agreement and do proceed, it could become one of the most momentous libel cases ever tried in the United States. In the event of a defeat, the popular conservative television station faces a huge loss of image and financial damage.

However, defamation lawsuits against the media are very difficult to win in the USA. The First Amendment to the US Constitution provides very broad protections for free speech. To be successful, Dominion would need to prove in the process that Fox News actually acted maliciously

Sources: Reuters, NBC News, CNN, Wall Street Journal