The Stateside phone hacking-scandal suit that a former body double for Angelina Jolie filed against News Corp last summer looks likely to end up in the U.K. if a federal judge doesn’t change his mind. Before a hearing Monday on the company’s motion to dismiss, Judge Michael Fitzgerald said in a tentative ruling that Eunice Huthart‘s case belonged in “the courts of England and Wales” not the U.S.
Alleging that her phone was tampered with in 2004 while living with Jolie in L.A., Huthart’s initial complaint on June 13 was the first hacking scandal suit filed against News Corp and its UK Press arm in the U.S. Back in September of last year, News Corp and News International filed their motion to toss the case or have it move to Britain. After issuing his tentative and hearing arguments from lawyers representing the English-born stuntwoman and the media corporation, Judge Fitzgerald said he would take the matter under submission (read it here). Though it happens, it is very unusual for a judge to reverse himself after issuing such a clear tentative.
As has proven the case in many of the suits in the on-going hacking-scandal, the longtime ex-Jolie stuntwoman’s allegations are years old. Huthart, whose most recent gig was as a stunt coordinator on Disney’s upcoming Maleficent starring Jolie, says she realized while staying in the States and working with Jolie on Mr. and Mrs. Smith that there was odd activity on her cell. Among other occurrences, messages were missing, Huthart claims. The stuntwoman’s name and phone number later turned up in the notes of Glenn Mulcaire, the jailed P.I. who worked for the now-closed tabloid News Of The World. PAlso a number of stories about Jolie and her then growing romance with Brad Pitt were published in the UK paper. 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 the company’s motion is that Huthart’s claims are outside the statue of limitations and do not pierce the corporate veil in naming the company as a defendant for actions taken by its non-U.S. subsidiaries. News Corp also wanted the case moved to a U.K. jurisdiction 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.” On one level or another, Judge Fitzgerald seems to agree.
News Corp and the other defendants were represented in court on Monday by Louis Karasik of LA firm Alston & Bird LLP along with Joseph Terry and Jonathan Pitt of D.C. firm Williams & Connolly LLP.Craig Stein of LA’s The Stein Law Firm as well Steven Hyman, Paul Levinson, and Bruce Langer of McLaughlin & Stern, LLP and Norman Siegel and Sara Lee Evans of Siegel Teitelbaum & Evans LLP represented Huthart.