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Bruce Lehrmann could face millions in legal fees. Why?

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In a ruling on Monday, Justice Michael Lee found it was ‘more likely than not’ that Lehrmann raped former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins.
bruce lehrmann legal fees

Bruce Lehrmann could be ordered to pay millions in legal fees after his defamation case against Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson failed in the Federal Court.

In a ruling on Monday, Justice Michael Lee found it was ‘more likely than not’ that Lehrmann raped former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins.

Now, Lee will consider if Lehrmann should be made to pay some or all of Ten and Wilkinson’s legal fees.

Lehrmann continues to deny the allegations against him.

Here’s what to expect from the case in the coming weeks.

Background

Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins alleged she was raped in Parliament House by a colleague in 2019.

The allegations were first published in an article by news.com.au and an interview with journalist Lisa Wilkinson on Network Ten’s The Project in 2021.

Lehrmann wasn’t named by The Project but he launched defamation proceedings in 2023, arguing he was still identifiable in the interview.

Under defamation law, people can sue if they believe published material has unfairly harmed their reputation.

Defamation trial

Lehrmann was seeking damages for the claims aired on The Project, which he maintained were false.

Ten and Wilkinson argued Lehrmann could not have been defamed because Higgins’ allegation was truthful.

Justice Michael Lee sided with this defence, ruling it was more likely than not that Lehrmann raped Higgins.

As is the case for civil trials, the judge ruled “on the balance of probabilities”. Criminal cases require a higher burden of proof. Guilt must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Costs

As Lehrmann lost this civil case, he will likely now be ordered to cover the legal fees incurred by Network Ten and Wilkinson (who had separate legal representation), as well as his own.

The parties have been given one week, until 22 April, to enter a Federal Court submission detailing the specific legal costs incurred by going to trial.

Lehrmann has the option to appeal the finding.

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Editorial note: TDA’s editor-in-chief is Billi FitzSimons, Lisa Wilkinson’s daughter. Billi had no editorial oversight or involvement with this story or any post we’ve made about this story’s developments.

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