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Special master investigation into Fox News ends after Dominion settlement

In a filing before the settlement, Judge Eric Davis said he tapped Delaware litigator John Elzufon to look into whether Fox complied with its discovery obligations.

The lawyer appointed as special master in the Fox News defamation trial will no longer investigate the company now that it has settled with Dominion Voting Systems for nearly $800 million, a source familiar with the situation said.

Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis appointed Delaware litigator John A. Elzufon on Tuesday morning to investigate whether Fox News and its parent company, Fox Corp., had "complied with their discovery obligations" ahead of the trial.

The $787.5 million settlement reached Tuesday afternoon headed off what would have been one of the most explosive American media trials in decades, and it initially raised the question of whether Elzufon's work would proceed.

The source familiar with the matter said Tuesday night that the special master's investigation will not move forward. Dominion declined to comment, and Fox did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Elzufon had been given a wide investigative berth. In a four-page filing Tuesday morning, Davis said that Elzufon could request depositions with whomever he wished and that Fox must pay the associated costs.

Davis last week sanctioned Fox for not having turned over evidence in a timely fashion. The evidence in question included audio recordings of Rudy Giuliani appearing to concede to Fox News host Maria Bartiromo that he did not have proof of fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

The recordings were turned over by Abby Grossberg, a former Fox News producer who is suing the network, alleging in part that she was harassed. Fox News has said Grossberg's legal claims are "unmeritorious."

In one of the recordings, from November 2020, Bartiromo asks Giuliani for evidence of fraud by Dominion, and he replies, “That’s a little harder to tell you — it’s being analyzed right now.”

Giuliani also says he “can’t prove” that Nancy Pelosi, then the speaker of the House, had an interest in Dominion.

In a second clip, from December 2020, a Trump official can be heard telling Fox News “there weren’t any physical issues with the [voting] machines” during inspections.

In a statement Tuesday evening, Grossberg's lawyer, Gerry Filippatos, said in part that he was "profoundly disappointed to have learned that the Court has apparently chosen to allow Fox News to abuse the discovery process and pillory Abby Grossberg's good character in open court without an adequate investigation into the unabashed misconduct of Fox News and its attorneys."

Dominion, a privately held company that makes voting equipment, sued Fox for airing false allegations of voter fraud after President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden. It sought $1.6 billion in damages.

Twelve jurors were seated before the court broke for lunch Tuesday. Then, after a lengthy afternoon delay, Davis returned to the bench and announced that the two sides had "resolved their case."