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Lisa Wilkinson’s legal fees in Bruce Lehrmann defamation case revealed

Nathan SchmidtNCA NewsWire
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Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: NCA NewsWire

The staggering costs behind TV personality Lisa Wilkinson’s legal battle with Bruce Lehrmann after he unsuccessfully sued her for defamation has been revealed.

The former Liberal staffer sued Ms Wilkinson and Network 10 following the airing of allegations by Brittany Higgins that she was raped in Parliament House in 2019.

Justice Michael Lee found in his determination last month that Lehrmann had, on the balance of probabilities, assaulted Ms Higgins, thus nixing the defamation suit.

Ms Wilkinson this week returned to court as she attempts to recuperate about $1.8 million in legal fees from Network 10 after she decided to be represented separately.

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Documents released by the Federal Court on Thursday reveal the eye-watering cost behind Ms Wilkinson’s defence by high-profile defamation lawyer Sue Chrysanthou SC.

FEDERAL COURT - LEHRMANN / WILKINSON
Camera IconLisa Wilkinson, right, with Chrysanthou SC outside the Federal Court. NCA NewsWire / Simon Bullard. Credit: News Corp Australia

The documents detail numerous invoices issued to Ms Wilkinson throughout the years-long legal battle; the most recent being an invoice dated May 9 for $405,328.

The fee is listed as being for Ms Sue Chrysanthou‘s counsel; similar fees dating back to mid-2023 ranged in size from $10,340 to $97,988 before GST was added.

The largest single invoice issued to Ms Wilkinson was dated February 29, 2024: amounting to $576,224.72 after GST, it included news subscriptions and lunches.

Early costs agreements sent to Gillis Delaney Lawyers, who Ms Wilkinson had retained to represent her, and Ms Chrysanthou quoted fees of $8000 per day.

A range of other expenditures are included in the documents, including thousands of dollars for printing and folders, USB drives, and subscriptions to The Australian.

BRUCE LEHRMANN
Camera IconBruce Lehrmann sued Network 10 and Lisa Wilkinson for defamation. NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short Credit: NCA NewsWire

Fears about the mounting cost of the months-long legal saga and subsequent multi-week defamation trial had an impact on Ms Wilkinson before Justice Lee’s judgment.

Internal emails released in February by the Federal Court detailed an emotional welfare check by Network 10 chief executive Beverley McGarvey in June 2023.

Ms McGarvey described Ms Wilkinson’s tone in the 30 minute call as being “almost hysterical”, noting she said was afraid “she would have to sell her house”.

“(Ms Wilkinson) lives in a lavish (multimillion-dollar) home with a pool and a tennis court and harbour views, so I hope this is not a real risk,” Ms McGarvey said.

The court was told on Monday a handwritten agreement had been made between lawyers representing Ms Wilkinson and Network 10 over which costs were agreed to.

A referee is expected to be appointed for items which are in dispute, with Justice Lee foreshadowing a similar process for costs being asked of Mr Lehrmann.

Justice Lee warned though that “without engaging in undue speculation … I’ve been told there appears thus far limited prospects of recovery” from the former staffer.

In its earlier written submissions, Network 10 said it did not have to pick up the bill for Ms Wilkinson’s legal costs which were “unnecessarily duplicative or wasteful”.

The referee, called for by Network 10, will be tasked with combing through the legal bills incurred by the former The Project host to decide whether the costs were reasonable.

Originally published as Lisa Wilkinson’s legal fees in Bruce Lehrmann defamation case revealed

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