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Tangled web: Wilkinson chases six-figure legal bill from Ten, then faces Lehrmann defamation


TV star Lisa Wilkinson’s legal bid to have Network Ten pay a six-figure legal bill up-front will be heard “promptly” as she battles a defamation case launched by ex-Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann.

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His claim relates to a 2021 interview that Wilkinson – then a co-host of current affairs program The Project – did with former political staffer Brittany Higgins airing her claims that she was raped in Parliament House.

Wilkinson sued Ten in a bid to force it to pay her legal costs, estimated at more than $700,000, immediately instead of once the defamation proceedings were finished.

She opted to hire separate legal representation to defend Mr Lehrmann’s case, including retaining high-profile barrister Sue Chrysanthou SC.

On Friday, NSW Supreme Court Justice Michael Ball said Wilkinson’s civil action would be listed for hearing early in December.

“It ought to be dealt with promptly,” Justice Ball said.

The hearing would likely run for up for two days, the court was told.

Barrister Daniel Klineberg, for Wilkinson, said the issue was the timing of the payment and the contention that nothing would be paid until the end of Mr Lehrmann’s Federal Court action.

Ten lawyer Zoe Graus told the court there would be “strong contest” about Wilkinson’s legal costs incurred to date.

Lawyers for the TV network previously argued there was no evidence Wilkinson was unable to afford the cost of retaining the top barrister for the case.

However, both parties agree that Ten, as Wilkinson’s employer, is liable to pay her legal fees for the case, the court has already been told.

Justice Ball stood the matter down until later on Friday to fix a listing date.

Hearings in Mr Lehrmann’s defamation case against Ten and Wilkinson are due to begin in the Federal Court next week.

His criminal trial in the ACT Supreme Court on charges of raping Ms Higgins was derailed by juror misconduct and prosecutors did not seek a second trial due to concerns over her mental health.

Mr Lehrmann has always denied the allegations.

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