By Helen Coster
WILMINGTON, Del -Dominion Voting Systems' $1.6 billion defamation trial against Fox Corp and Fox News will proceed with jury selection starting on Tuesday, a judge announced on Monday.
Judge Eric Davis did not provide a reason for the delay.
Dominion is suing Fox Corp and Fox News for $1.6 billion over the network's coverage of the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
The trial is one of the most closely watched U.S. defamation cases in years, involving a leading cable news outlet with numerous conservative commentators.
Rupert Murdoch, the chair of Fox Corp, is set to testify, along with a parade of Fox executives and on-air hosts, including Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro.
The trial is considered a test of whether Fox's coverage crossed the line between ethical journalism and the pursuit of ratings, as Dominion alleges and Fox denies.
Dominion has accused Fox of ruining its reputation by airing baseless claims that its machines secretly changed votes in favor of Democrat Joe Biden, who defeated then-President Trump, a Republican, in the 2020 presidential election.
Dominion is asking for $1.6 billion in damages, a figure Fox has said is unrealistic and based on flawed economic modeling.
An expert report commissioned by Dominion attributed scores of lost contracts to Fox's coverage, though much of the report remains under seal.
Fox Corp reported nearly $14 billion in annual revenue last year.
Dominion has said Fox's conduct was damaging to American democracy and that the network must be held accountable, while Fox said on Friday that Dominion's lawsuit was a threat to press freedom.
Davis on Wednesday sanctioned Fox News, handing Dominion a fresh chance to gather evidence after Fox withheld records until the eve of the trial.
The evidence includes recordings of Rudy Giuliani, Trump's lawyer, saying in pre-taped Fox appearances that he did not have any evidence to back up the false allegations of election rigging by Dominion in the 2020 race that are at the heart of the lawsuit.
The recordings were made by a former Fox employee who is currently suing the network.
Davis said he would also very likely tap an outside investigator to probe Fox's late disclosure of the evidence and take whatever steps necessary to remedy the situation, which he described as troubling.
Fox said in a statement on Wednesday that it "produced the supplemental information" to Dominion "when we first learned it."
The primary question for jurors is whether Fox knowingly spread false information or recklessly disregarded the truth, the standard of "actual malice" that Dominion must show to prevail in a defamation case.
Dominion says defamatory statements were aired on Fox shows including "Sunday Morning Futures," "Lou Dobbs Tonight" and "Justice with Judge Jeanine."
Dominion alleges that Fox staff, ranging from members of the newsroom to the board of directors, knew the statements were false but continued to air them to avoid losing viewers to far-right outlets.
Dominion also cites evidence that some hosts and producers thought the guests spreading the false statements, including former Trump attorneys Giuliani and Sidney Powell, could not back up their allegations.
Fox had argued that coverage of the vote-rigging claims was inherently newsworthy and protected by the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment guarantee of press freedom.
Davis rejected that argument in a ruling last month on both parties' competing motions for summary judgment.
Fox has also said that Dominion cannot pin actual malice on the individuals whom Dominion says were responsible for the defamatory statements.
Fox has said Dominion must prove that a "superior officer" at the network or its parent company "ordered, participated in, or ratified" wrongdoing. The network has argued that doubts about the claims among certain individuals cannot be attributed to the organization as a whole.
(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Will Dunham)