News Corp has paid out nearly $200 million in the past year alone in settlements related to the ongoing phone hacking scandal. Late last week, the company made it very clear that it doesn’t intend to make a payment to Eunice Huthart, a former body double for Angelina Jolie. In a June civil complaint, Huthart became the first person to file a hacking-scandal suit against News Corp and its UK press arm News International in the U.S. On September 20, News Corp filed back, asking the federal court to dismiss Huthart’s privacy violations case on a series of grounds. “The Court should dismiss the complaint on the grounds of lack of personal jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. But it need not even reach those issues — instead, the Court should dismiss this lawsuit under the doctrine of forum non conveniens with instructions that it be re-filed, if at all, in the United Kingdom,” said the motion by the company (read it here). A hearing in the case is scheduled for January 6.
Like most of the hacking-scandal claims, Huthart’s allegations go back years. Huthart, whose most recent gig was as a stunt coordinator on Disney’s upcoming Jolie-starrer Maleficent, started noticing odd activity and missing messages on her cell phone in 2004 while living with Jolie in LA while the two were filming Mr. and Mrs. Smith with Brad Pitt. Huthart’s name and cell number later turned up in the notes of Glenn Mulcaire, the P.I. who worked for the now-shuttered tabloid News Of The World and was jailed in 2007 for illegally intercepting phone messages. Part of News Corp’s multi-headed argument to dismiss the case is that Huthart’s cell was actually a UK phone with a UK company and Mulcaire’s alleged actions against her originated in the UK. Other parts of News Corp’s wide-ranging desire for dismissal or having the case moved across the Atlantic is that her claims are outside the statue of limitations, do not pierce the corporate veil in naming the company as a defendant for actions taken by its non-U.S. subsidiaries and, amazingly brazen, because “a trial on these matters in the United States would be complex, expensive, and burdensome for a Court with one of the most congested dockets in the United States.” That’s not likely to appeal to an American judge, I’d say.
News Corp and the other defendants are represented by Louis Karasik of LA firm Alston & Bird LLP as well as Brendan Sullivan, Tobin Romero, Joseph Terry and Jonathan Pitt of D.C. firm Williams & Connolly LLP. Huthart is represented by Craig Stein of LA’s The Stein Law Firm as well Steven Hyman, Paul Levinson, and Bruce Langer of McLaughlin 7 Stern, LLP and Norman Siegel, Saralee Evans and Herbert Teitelbaum of Siegel Teitelbaum & Evans LLP.