/ 24 April 2024

A costly loss

Image source: AAP
Image source: AAP

The Squiz 

Following last Monday’s judgement against Bruce Lehrmann in his defamation case against Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson, the media outlet wants him to pay their entire legal bill, arguing he brought the case “on a deliberately wicked and calculated basis”. Justice Michael Lee found on the balance of probabilities Lehrmann had raped Brittany Higgins, his former colleague, in 2019. Ten claims Lehrmann has engaged in an “abuse of process” because he sought substantial damages in court when he knew “that he had raped Ms Higgins”.

So how big is the tab?

Experts estimate Ten’s legal bill is about $8 million, so there are questions about Lehrmann’s capacity to pay, particularly in light of reports that he is unemployed. For his part, Lehrmann asked the court to excuse him from paying Ten’s and Wilkinson’s costs. Justice Lee is considering both parties’ submissions and is expected to make a decision when the case returns for a costs hearing next Wednesday. Also revealed yesterday were court documents showing Lehrmann turned down a “walk away” offer to settle with Ten and Wilkinson before the trial began. The deal would have seen him leave with no apology or admission of liability and no cash settlement, with parties bearing their own costs. Despite having 2 weeks to mull it over, Lehrmann rejected the offer “in less than 2 hours” as it didn’t give him an “opportunity for vindication”.

What about Higgins?

Good question because her former boss Linda Reynolds is suing her and her partner David Sharaz for defamation… Last week, Lee said the idea of a political cover-up of Higgins’ allegations – a key part of her 2022 interview with The Project – had been debunked. That led her to release a statement on Instagram on Saturday apologising to Reynolds and then-chief of staff Fiona Brown for the “hurt” they have endured, regretting they had not “found common ground”. Despite the “olive branch”, Reynolds says she will keep going unless Higgins publicly acknowledges there was no cover-up… Coalition Leader Peter Dutton has backed Reynolds, saying she has “absolutely been vindicated” and she’s “right to pursue” the case. There could be another effort to settle the case through mediation – if not, it will go to trial in July.

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