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

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

The former Liberal staffer is suing Ms Wilkinson and Network 10 following the release of Brittany Higgins’ allegations that she was raped at Parliament House in 2019.

Judge Michael Lee found in his decision last month that Lehrmann had, on the balance of probabilities, assaulted Ms Higgins, thus quashing the defamation suit.

Ms Wilkinson is back in court this week as she tries to recover around $1.8 million in legal costs from Network 10 after deciding to be represented separately.

Documents released by the Federal Court on Thursday reveal the huge costs behind Ms Wilkinson’s defense by high-profile defamation lawyer Sue Chrysanthou SC.

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

The fee indicated is that of Ms Sue Chrysanthou’s lawyer; similar fees dating back to mid-2023 ranged from $10,340 to $97,988 before GST was added.

The largest single invoice issued to Ms Wilkinson was dated 29 February 2024: it amounted to $576,224.72 exclusive of GST, including news and lunch subscriptions.

Advance cost arrangements were sent to Gillis Delaney’s lawyers, who Ms Wilkinson had instructed to represent her, and Ms Chrysanthou quoted a fee of $8000 per day.

Included in the documents are a range of other expenses, including thousands of dollars for prints and folders, USB drives and subscriptions to The Australian.

Fears over the mounting costs of a months-long legal saga and subsequent multi-week libel trial took their toll on Ms Wilkinson ahead of Judge Lee’s judgment.

Internal emails released in February by the Federal Court detail an emotional wellbeing check carried out by Network 10 chief executive Beverley McGarvey in June 2023.

Ms McGarvey described Ms Wilkinson’s tone in the 30-minute phone call as “almost hysterical”, stressing that she was afraid “of having to sell her house”.

“(Ms Wilkinson) lives in a luxury (multi-million dollar) home with a swimming pool, tennis court and harbor views, so I hope this is not a real risk,” Ms McGarvey said.

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

It is expected that an arbitrator will be appointed over the disputed matters, with Judge Lee envisaging a similar process for the costs sought from Mr Lehrmann.

Judge Lee cautioned, however, that “without engaging in undue speculation… I am told that so far the prospects for recovery appear limited” by the former staffer.

In its previous written submissions, Network 10 said it should not foot the bill for Ms Wilkinson’s legal costs which were “unnecessarily duplicative or wasteful”.

The arbitrator, requested by Rete 10, will have the task of examining the legal costs incurred by the former host of The Project to decide whether the costs were reasonable.

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