Seattle, WA asked in Constitutional Law, Communications Law and Libel & Slander for Texas

Q: Could you start a class action lawsuit against Fox News for knowingly lying to people, or is it just free speech?

1 Lawyer Answer
John Michael Frick
John Michael Frick
  • Frisco, TX
  • Licensed in Texas

A: There actually is a pending lawsuit against Fox News brought by Dominion Voting Systems arguing that Fox defamed Dominion. This case is set for trial April 17.

Suing a media member for defamation (i.e. libel and slander) is very difficult and expensive. Class action lawsuits are likewise very complex and very expensive.

One important aspect of any such case is damages: assuming that you can prove Fox News knowingly lied about you and other members of the proposed class, how did its false reporting about you and other members of the proposed class specifically harm you. For example, did you and other members of the proposed class lose specific business contracts as a result of those lies?

When Oprah Winfrey was sued for deliberately lying to her viewers about mad cow disease in a 1996 broadcast, she, her media company, and her guest were sued by four ranching families and their cattle companies for defamation (i.e. libel and slander), but the plaintiffs were not able to satisfactorily prove that the broadcast caused cattle prices to plummet, costing them $11 million as the plaintiffs alleged.

Being able to causally link your particular damages to a specific broadcast can be very difficult. The best possible evidence you may have are pending contracts with particular customers which are cancelled after the broadcast with the customers saying that their cancellations were because of the false contents of the broadcast.

In its lawsuit, Dominion claims it sustained $921 million in damages to its value, plus that it lost $88 million in past lost profits and will lose $600 million in future profits. Dominion intends to show that it lost at least 20 customers after the 2020 election. It contends those customers terminated or declined to renew their contracts because of false vote-rigging claims. Much of the evidence surrounding these claims has not yet been made public.

Defamation claims have a one-year statute of limitations in Texas. That time period begins to run from the date the defamatory statement was made. If that one year time period won't expire for you and other members of your proposed class before April/May, you may want to wait and see what happens in the Dominion lawsuit before funding a class action on behalf of your class.

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