Network 10 is attempting to shift its legal stoush with Lisa Wilkinson to the Federal Court as the two sides battle over her legal bills in the upcoming Bruce Lehrmann defamation case.
Ms Wilkinson has launched court proceedings against Network 10 to force her employer to immediately stump up for her defence in the suit, where both she and the broadcaster are named as respondents.
The two sides are arguing over whether the $700,000 bill should be settled immediately or at the end of the defamation proceedings.
Mr Lehrmann is suing Ms Wilkinson and Network 10 in the Federal Court over her 2021 interview with Brittany Higgins, which aired on The Project, with the trial due to begin on Wednesday.
Ms Wilkinson is also locked in a separate legal battle with Network 10 in the NSW Supreme Court after she elected to hire her own legal representation.
Ms Wilkinson hired high-profile barrister Sue Chrysanthou SC and Gillis Delaney Lawyers partner Anthony Jefferies earlier this year instead of opting to use Network 10’s retained law firm Thomson Geer.
According to documents filed in the NSW Supreme Court, she claims the broadcaster is refusing to pay two invoices totalling $723,000 in legal fees.
Barrister Zoe Graus, acting for Ten, told the court on Friday that the network was moving an application to shift the proceedings to the Federal Court, where the defamation suit is being heard.
Justice Michael Bell told the court that the cross-vesting application – to transfer the matter to the Federal Court – “turned on” whether there was a possibility of inconsistent findings.
The matter will return to court next Friday.
Ms Wilkinson alleges Network 10 twice accepted it was liable to indemnify the TV star even if she was “independently represented”.
In a statement, Network 10 said: “The lawyers engaged by Lisa Wilkinson have issued invoices for a very substantial amount of money, in excess of $700,000, and in good governance these need to be justified through due process.
“In the meantime, Network 10’s focus is on defending the defamation claim brought by Bruce Lehrmann.”
Mr Lehrmann has also launched defamation proceedings against the ABC over the live broadcast of a National Press Club address by Ms Higgins.
While he was not named in the report or Ms Higgins’ speech, Mr Lehrmann claims he was still identified by the media companies and has alleged there were four defamatory meanings in their publication implying he raped her at Parliament House in March 2019.
He has strongly denied all allegations.
Mr Lehrmann’s Supreme Court trial in the ACT last year was aborted due to juror misconduct.
He had pleaded not guilty to a single charge of sexual assault.
The charges were subsequently dropped by the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions, who declined to pursue a retrial over concerns about Ms Higgins’ mental health, and no findings have ever been made against Mr Lehrmann.