Mr. Roscoe came through with a breakthrough series of deal points that the two sides could at least work from, giving the talks a new intensity, according to several people briefed on the discussions. He knew top lawyers for both companies, having recently mediated another case in which their firms had also been on opposing sides.
The judge, who had been privately urging the parties to find a way to a settlement, made time where he could. Before opening arguments were set to begin, he dismissed the jury for lunch as the contours of an actual deal started to come into view. He grew visibly impatient as the jurors finished a platter of wraps and salads from nearby Cavanaugh’s — only to sit for hours awaiting the trial’s start.
Over the weekend, Lachlan Murdoch, intent on finding a way to a deal, had given his team the go ahead to increase the dollar amount the company would pay. And, during the talks, as the Fox offer increased, Dominion softened its bottom line about an admission of wrongdoing. The compromise: an acknowledgment from Fox that it understood Judge Davis’s pretrial rulings against the network — including that the defamatory Dominion conspiracies Fox had aired were objectively false.
The resulting Fox statement, a product of careful lawyering, went only so far, saying, “We acknowledge the Court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false,” falling short of what many of the network’s critics wanted. But it also gave Dominion’s lawyers the freedom to immediately announce the eye-popping amount they won, $787.5 million, a message in itself, the Dominion lawyer Stephen Shackelford told reporters outside the courthouse immediately after the trial’s abrupt end: “Money is accountability.”
That a deal came together at all was remarkable and unexpected. Neither side had made serious efforts to settle out of court since Dominion filed the suit more than two years ago. Dominion and its lawyers liked the strength of its case, bolstered by emails, texts and depositions revealing how many inside Fox had worried that their promotion of conspiracy theories about Dominion machines was wrong.