Bruce Lehrmann may be required to face cross-examination in a fortnight to explain why he did not commence defamation proceedings against Lisa Wilkinson and Network Ten within the standard 12-month period.
The federal court is scheduled to convene on March 16th for a preliminary hearing in Mr Lehrmann‘s defamation case.
The hearing will investigate the substantial delay in Mr Lehrmann’s filing of the defamation claim against Wilkinson and Network Ten.
Mr Lehrmann launched legal action on February 7 against Lisa Wilkinson and Network 10, as well as News Corp Australia’s News Life Media and news.com.au’s Samantha Maiden.
He alleged Channel 10 and News Corp’s stories implied four defamatory meanings, including that he “raped Brittany Higgins in [then] defence minister Linda Reynolds’ office in 2019”.
However, according to standard practice, defamation claims must be filed within 12 months of the relevant publication.
In this instance, Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson’s interviews with Brittany Higgins and the associated publications were released in February 2021, two years before Lehrmann initiated proceedings.
Lehrmann’s legal team is advocating for an extension of the limitation period.
If granted, Ms Wilkinson and Network Ten’s lawyers could request permission to scrutinize Mr Lehrmann’s reasons for the delay by cross-examining him in open court for the first time.
The Guardian reported a source close to Lehrmann confirmed that he had received a summons to appear and that he would do so without opposition.
In the past, the federal court has granted defendants in defamation proceedings the right to summon plaintiffs for cross-examination about why they failed to meet the limitation period.
Bruce Lehrmann may be required to face cross-examination in a fortnight to explain why he did not commence defamation proceedings against Lisa Wilkinson and Network Ten within the standard 12-month period.Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson’s interviews with Brittany Higgins and the associated publications were released in February 2021, two years before Lehrmann initiated proceedings.
Meanwhile, Channel 10 could be liable for Ms Wilkinson’s legal costs and any damages in her defamation case brought by Mr Lehrmann if she loses.
Mr Lehrmann is suing the highly paid TV presenter and Channel 10 over coverage of Brittany Higgins’ rape allegation in February 2021 – which he strenuously denies and have never been proven in court – claiming they were defamatory.
When Ms Wilkinson made the rare choice to break off from Channel 10’s legal team, it was reported she would be paying “out of her own pocket”.
But that will only happen if she wins, an analysis of legal documents and interviews with several legal experts has confirmed.
It all centres on one key sentence in the 23-page document filed by top silk Sue Chrysanthou SC which defends the claim against Ms Wilkinson.
That sentence claims Ms Wilkinson “says that she is an employee for the purposes of the Employers’ Liability Act 1991 (NSW)”.
Under that legislation, an “employee is not liable where an employer is also liable” if “an employee commits a tort (in this case, defamation) for which his or her employer is also liable”.