Network Ten questions the reasonableness of Wilkinson’s legal costs in the Lehrmann defamation case sparked by The Project.
Court documents have surfaced revealing further details of a dispute over legal costs.
Lisa Wilkinson has reportedly declined to provide detailed invoices for her high-profile legal team’s expenses, which have amounted to an astonishing $700,000 in less than eight months.
The dispute centres around Wilkinson’s claim against her employer, Network Ten, alleging that the network is not fulfilling its obligation to indemnify her in the defamation suit initiated by Bruce Lehrmann. This suit emerged following Wilkinson’s interview with Brittany Higgins on The Project in 2021, where Higgins accused Lehrmann of raping her in Parliament House, though he was not explicitly named as the assailant in the interview.
In February, Wilkinson engaged the services of renowned defamation barrister Sue Chrysanthou SC and Anthony Jefferies, a partner at Gillis Delaney Lawyers. This move was a deviation from Network Ten’s preferred legal firm, Thomson Geer. Wilkinson is contesting Network Ten’s refusal to cover two significant invoices for her legal representation — $353,538.88 in May and $370,017.00 in September.
Network Ten has expressed its dissatisfaction with Wilkinson’s decision to seek separate legal counsel, criticizing the costs as “not reasonably incurred.” The network contends, “(Network Ten) maintains its view that it is not necessary or reasonable for the plaintiff to be separately represented in the proceeding, such that the costs incurred by reason of that decision are not reasonably incurred.”
Contrastingly, Wilkinson argues that the network should bear these costs as they arise. However, Network Ten insists that payment should be a lump sum at the case’s conclusion, contingent on the reasonableness of the expenses. The network further claims a lack of a “complete record” of Chrysanthou’s invoices and criticizes the insufficient specificity in the billing details.
Notably, in a letter dated June 21, Network Ten’s legal team expressed preliminary doubts over the reasonableness of legal costs exceeding $375,000, given the limited progress in the case at that time. The letter stated,
“Substantial work undertaken on behalf of the plaintiff was unnecessarily duplicative of the defendant’s work in defending the proceeding.”
The latest hearing in the NSW Supreme Court revealed plans by Network Ten to transfer the case to the Federal Court, to be presided over by Justice Michael Lee, who is also handling Lehrmann’s defamation case against the network. The case is set to resume in court this Thursday.
SOURCE: The Australian