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Zeta and Michael want 100K more

Jul 17 2003

Duncan Higgitt, The Western Mail


CATHERINE Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas have demanded another 100,000 damages for the unauthorised publication of their wedding.

The sum, on top of the 500,000 they have already been awarded, would compensate them for the personal distress they suffered after the paparazzi invaded their wedding, their lawyer told a High Court judge.

Alastair Wilson QC, representing the Hollywood golden couple, was opening the second phase of the legal battle against Hello! magazine, which published the snatched pictures of the ceremony in November 2000.

He told Mr Justice Lindsay that the Douglases were entitled to damages not only for the damage caused to their commercial rights - they had signed a 1m exclusive deal with celebrity magazine OK! - but also for the real personal distress they had suffered.

"This is rather like a burglary when possessions are stolen and the value gone, and at the same time you feel a sense of personal invasion of privacy.

"This is a real distress quite separate from the value of possessions which have also disappeared," he said.

The Douglases claimed victory when Mr Justice Lindsay ruled in April that the publisher had breached their rights of confidence.

It is now up to the same judge to decide what damages Hello! must pay to the couple and to OK!.

The Douglases were claiming 500,000 and OK! had sued for 1.75m but the total claim is now believed to be around 2.5m.

During the six-week hearing of one of the most publicised cases heard at the High Court in London, which has cost more than 3m in legal fees so far, Zeta Jones told how she had felt "devastated, shocked and appalled" when she realised that paparazzi had gate-crashed her wedding at New York's Plaza Hotel and secretly taken pictures despite massive security precautions.

The judge said a wedding was an exceptional event for any bride and groom and just because Douglas, 58, and Zeta Jones, 33, were public figures it did not lessen their right to complain about intrusion.

There was no doubt that the couple had suffered real distress, said the judge. Zeta Jones had cried when she learned of the unauthorised photographs.

Mr Wilson said the Douglases' "sense of euphoria was suddenly shattered" when they realised that Hello! had pictures taken during their wedding.

He said they had taken enormous care to try to preserve their privacy and any personal damages should be pushed up beyond what might have been allotted.

"We say it would not be unreasonable in the extreme circumstances to award each of them 50,000 by way of damages for their personal distress."

The QC, turning to commercial damages for the Douglases, said one way to calculate these would be on the notional amount the couple would have charged Hello! to use the pictures - a figure which had been set at 500,000.

The hearing, which could last up to two weeks, was adjourned until today.

Dream movie double act for Zeta and Michael Douglas falls through


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