(Reuters) – Electronic voting systems maker Smartmatic on Thursday sued Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News cable network and Rudolph Giuliani, a lawyer for former President Donald Trump, claiming they falsely accused the company of helping to rig the U.S. presidential election in favor of Joe Biden.
The defamation suit, filed in New York County Supreme Court, also names as defendants former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, Fox Corp and Fox hosts Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro.
Smartmatic alleged Fox and other defendants invented a story that the election was stolen from Trump and made Smartmatic “the villain in their story.”
“Fox News used the story to preserve its grip on viewers and readers and curry favors with the outgoing administration,” the lawsuit said.
The suit seeks more than $2.7 billion in compensatory and punitive damages. Smartmatic also asks for defendants to retract false statements.
“Fox News Media is committed to providing the full context of every story with in-depth reporting and clear opinion,” a Fox News Media spokesperson said in a statement. “We are proud of our 2020 election coverage and will vigorously defend this meritless lawsuit in court.”
Dobbs referred questions to Fox News for comment, as did a representative for Bartiromo. The other defendants did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Florida-based Smartmatic’s technology was only used in one place for the Nov. 3 presidential election – Los Angeles County, which Biden won.
“This is a first step in trying to recover our reputation and trying to set the record straight,” said Smartmatic Chief Executive Antonio Mugica in an interview.
After the election, Trump and some of his supporters spread false claims of election fraud, including that Smartmatic and competitor Dominion Voting Systems manipulated the results.
Smartmatic in December demanded Fox News retract allegations leveled by its employees and guests, but Fox did not comply.
Instead the network aired an interview on the three hosts’ programs with an outside expert who said there was no evidence to support the Smartmatic claims by Fox hosts and guests.
Dominion Voting Systems has filed similar lawsuits against Giuliani and Powell.
Recovering over $2.7 billion in damages will be difficult, said George Washington University Law School professor Roger Schechter. Smartmatic will need to back up its claims of future earnings and harm to that potential. “There’s two contingencies heaped on each other here,” he said.
(Reporting by Helen Coster; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)