Former Dominion employee defamation suit against Trump campaign can continue, court says

Olivia Sun/Pool/The Colorado Sun
Eric Coomer from Dominion Voting listens to remarks during a hearing on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, at Denver’s City and County Building. Attorneys for Donald Trump’s re-election campaign and other members in conservative media requested the dismissal of a defamation lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems worker, Eric Coomer, who says he lost his job and reputation from being targeted through a false conspiracy to rig the 2020 election.

A Colorado Court of Appeals has decided that a defamation lawsuit against the Trump campaign and other conservative groups from a former employee of Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems can move forward.

Eric Coomer was Dominion’s director of product strategy and security. He sued for defamation after he found himself at the center of right-wing conspiracies, alleging that he personally rigged the 2020 presidential election for Joe Biden. He was forced into hiding after receiving death threats.

On Dec. 22, 2020, Coomer sued the Trump campaign, several campaign surrogates, and pro-Trump media outlets. On Wednesday the court ruled Coomer’s case could move forward because he established a reasonable likelihood of success on his claims for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Prominent Trump supporters tried to dismiss the case under Colorado’s anti-SLAPP statute (strategic lawsuit against public participation). The statute allows a court to throw out a meritless defamation case if defendants can show they were exercising their constitutional right to free speech and to petition the government.

“Under that statute, we do not decide whether Coomer will prevail on his claims. Nor do we determine who is telling the truth about what occurred. Instead, the sole question we must answer is whether Coomer has done enough to pursue his claims further,” wrote Judge Karl Schock in his 117-page opinion.

Coomer is suing for defamation based on claims that centered on a supposed Antifa call prior to the 2020 presidential election in which a man named Eric said he “made sure” then-President Donald J. Trump would not win the election.

“Considering each defendant’s statements separately, we conclude that each defendant made statements that could reasonably be understood to communicate that (1) Coomer asserted on a conference call that he had made sure President Trump was not going to win the election and (2) Coomer in fact took steps to interfere with the election.” 

The court concluded that Coomer presented sufficient evidence to show those statements “were false and that defendants made them with actual malice.”

Actual malice means that the defendants knew the statements were false or said them with reckless disregard for their truth.”