There is no suggestion that Lisa Wilkinson can’t settle her own legal bills as they come in after she launched court proceedings against Network 10 to force her employer to immediately stump up for her defence in their Bruce Lehrmann defamation suit, a court has heard.
The high-profile journalist is locked in a NSW Supreme Court battle against the network over her legal fees relating to their upcoming defamation lawsuit trial against Mr Lehrmann.
The two sides are in argument over whether the $700,000 bill should be settled immediately or at the conclusion of the defamation proceedings.
The court heard on Friday morning that Network 10 had accepted it was liable to pay Ms Wilkinson’s “properly incurred” costs.
However, the parties are separated on the issue of when Ms Wilkinson’s legal bill should be paid.
The court heard Network 10 argues her legal bill should be settled at the conclusion of the proceedings, which are due to begin with a four-week trial on November 20.
Mr Lehrmann is suing Ms Wilkinson and Network 10 in the Federal Court over her 2021 interview with Brittany Higgins, which aired on The Project.
Ms Wilkinson is now locked in a separate legal battle with Network 10 in the NSW Supreme Court after she elected to hire her own legal representation.
She is claiming the network backed out of an agreement to pay her legal costs.
According to documents filed in the NSW Supreme Court, the broadcaster is refusing to pay two invoices totalling $723,000 in legal fees.
Ms Wilkinson hired high-profile barrister Sue Chrysanthou SC and Gillis Delaney Lawyers partner Anthony Jefferies earlier this year, instead of opting to use Network 10’s retained law firm Thomson Geer.
Barrister Daniel Klineberg, acting for Ms Wilkinson, said the only issue was whether they should be paid “when they fall” or at the conclusion of the defamation proceedings.
The court heard Ms Wilkinson argues that her legal costs should be paid by Network 10 as they are incurred.
Mr Klineberg said there was a “narrow” but “practical” issue to be determined by the court and it could be decided in an hour-long hearing
Barrister Zoe Graus, acting for Network 10, said her client may seek to move the matter to the Federal Court.
She also said that the network would oppose the matter being expedited.
“On the question of expedition, there’s no evidence to suggest that Ms Wilkinson will be unable to pay her costs in the Federal Court, there’s been no evidence to suggest that the costs incurred to date have in fact been paid or incurred,” Ms Graus said.
“There is simply evidence of the bills received.”
She asked for the matter to return to court in two weeks so that her client could put on a response.
Justice Michael Ball ordered that the matter return to court on November 17.
Ms Wilkinson alleges Network 10 twice accepted it was liable to indemnify the TV star even if she was “independently represented”.
In a statement, Network 10 said: “The lawyers engaged by Lisa Wilkinson have issued invoices for a very substantial amount of money, in excess of $700,000, and in good governance these need to be justified through due process.
“In the meantime, Network 10’s focus is on defending the defamation claim brought by Bruce Lehrmann.”
Mr Lehrmann has also launched defamation proceedings against the ABC over the live broadcast of a National Press Club address by Ms Higgins.
While he was not named in the report or Ms Higgins’ speech, Mr Lehrmann claims he was still identified by the media companies and has alleged there were four defamatory meanings in their publication implying he raped her at Parliament House in March 2019.
He has strongly denied all allegations.
Mr Lehrmann’s Supreme Court trial in the ACT last year was aborted due to juror misconduct.
He had pleaded not guilty to a single charge of sexual assault.
The charges were subsequently dropped by the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions, who declined to pursue a retrial over concerns about Ms Higgins’ mental health, and no findings have ever been made against him..