Press & publishing | Special report: press and privacy
Zeta Jones gets costs but may end up paying out £1m
But today's judgment will also hit Hello! hard, as the magazine has already been ordered to pay £1m-plus damages to rival OK! for scuppering its exclusive deal with the Douglases and publishing snatched photos of their wedding.
The celebrity title is facing a total bill of £3.5m - it must pay three-quarters of the couple's estimated £2m legal costs plus the £1m it spent on defending the case and £1m-plus damages.
OK! today hit out at Hello! because it was still trying to justify its conduct on the grounds that rivals have always tried to spoil exclusives.
"Such conduct is and has always been illegal and it is astonishing that Hello! are unable to grasp the gravity of their misconduct in spite of being severely criticised by a success of judges," said Maninder Gill, legal director at Northern & Shell, publisher of OK!.
But lawyers for Hello! today said they expected a later hearing to reduce the Douglases' costs claim to just 50%.
"They [the Douglases] will end up paying £1m. All in all it is the most ludicrous waste of money and the sort of thing that gives litigation a bad name," said Matthew Higdon, partner at Hello! solicitors M Law.
"They recovered £3,750 each - that was their damages; she [Zeta Jones] claimed £1m was not a lot of money and now she's going to have to pay it. This case shouldn't even have been brought," he added.
The Hollywood couple last year sued Hello! for publishing covert pictures of their wedding and upstaging a £1m exclusive deal with rival OK!.
In a pyrrhic victory, Zeta Jones and Douglas won £14,600 in damages, including £3,750 each for "hurt feelings" after claiming they were "violated" by the pictures, but today learned they would have to pay a quarter of the costs of the case, leaving them a potential financial loser in the case.
"Today's judgment reflects the fact that the Douglases and OK lost nine of their 14 claims. However you look at it, they're almost certain to end up out of pocket," Chris Hutchings, the solicitor acting for Hello!, told Sky News immediately following the verdict.
The small payout was a fraction of the £600,000 the couple had sought in damages and was dwarfed by the £1m Hello! was forced to pay OK! for scuppering its exclusive deal.
The snatched pictures were taken by photographer Rupert Thorpe, son of the former Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe, who gatecrashed the wedding at the New York Plaza hotel in November 2000.
During the high court case, Douglas said seeing the unauthorised pictures had been a "truly gut-wrenching and very disturbing experience, which left both of us deeply upset", while Zeta Jones complained that the shots were tacky and made her look fat.
They argued that they were bringing the case on a matter of principle and were not interested in the money. "It's a lot of money to the people in this room but it's not a lot of money to us," said Zeta Jones, telling the court of their £1m deal with OK!.
In his original ruling Judge Lindsay threw out nine of the Douglases' 14 claims but said they were entitled to damages under the law of confidence and data protection and granted an injunction to prevent further publication of the pictures.
However, while some media organisations feared the case could have implications for privacy law, in the event lawyers said it was a simple case of commercial compensation.
Hello! is to appeal against the original ruling, arguing it sets a dangerous precedent for magazines and newspapers planning to run spoilers against their rivals.
"It is true Hello! has paid £1m in damages and together with the costs will amount to a substantial sum. We will mount an appeal, which should take place in the autumn. It has very serious implications for the media," said Mr Hutchings.
"As it stands, where one media organisation has an exclusive they have a monopoly on that information, even after it has been published."
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07.11.2003: Lawyers unfazed by stars' low damages
07.11.2003: Hollywood stars win £14,600 damages from Hello!
22.07.2003: Hello! Zeta Jones pictures 'blew away' OK!
16.07.2003: Douglases and OK! seek up to £2m
16.07.2003: £100,000 claim over Zeta Jones pictures
16.05.2003: July date set for Zeta Jones damages hearing
11.04.2003: Full summary of judgment
11.04.2003: Zeta Jones judge warns over privacy law
11.04.2003: Madonna's PR and Max Clifford on the ruling
11.04.2003: OK! hails 'historic' victory
11.04.2003: Case means end of road for spoilers
11.04.2003: Crisis of confidence: a lawyer writes
11.04.2003: The media must heed this warning shot: a lawyer writes
10.03.2003: Hello! accused of 'unpleasant' wedding coverage
07.03.2003: Zeta Jones offered wedding 'slice'
07.03.2003: Hello! treated marquesa like a 'doormat'
04.03.2003: Zeta Jones wedding photos 'sold to porn magazine'
04.03.2003: Stars sought to 'control publicity'
18.02.2003: Hello! boss admits to 'misunderstanding'
17.02.2003: Stars 'exaggerated distress', says Hello!
14.02.2003: Hello! attacks 'obsessive' rival
14.02.2003: Zeta Jones wanted money not privacy, says Hello! boss
13.02.2003: Marquesa: 'Hello! boss asked me to lie'
13.02.2003: Stars 'childish' over wedding
12.02.2003: A New York hotel 'could never be private'
12.02.2003: Hello!'s fixer is 'impetuous'
12.02.2003: Hello! 'did not conspire with paparazzi'
12.02.2003: Rod Liddle: Don't let them eat cake
11.02.2003: Zeta Jones hired three security firms for wedding
11.02.2003: Hello! defends use of wedding pictures
11.02.2003: Hello! spoiler cost OK! dear
11.02.2003: Press turns on Zeta Jones
10.02.2003: Douglas: we don't have to 'play ball' with media
11.02.2003: Catherine Zeta Jones' statement
10.02.2003: Zeta Jones accused of over-reacting
10.02.2003: Douglas: we guard our privacy closely
10.02.2003: Zeta Jones: £1m is 'not that much'
10.02.2003: Zeta Jones: I didn't sell my privacy
10.02.2003: Zeta Jones: paparazzi are 'game-hunters'
10.02.2003: Douglas hits out at 'peeping toms'
10.02.2003: Zeta Jones: 'devastated' by paparazzi
10.02.2003: Hollywood comes to town
10.02.2003: Matt Wells: Privacy goes to Hollywood
05.02.2003: Press spoilers 'are commonplace', court told
05.02.2003: Weddings are 'public occasions' says Zeta Jones judge
04.02.2003: Douglases 'forfeited right to privacy'
04.02.2003: Stars and celebrity mags act out their own court drama
04.02.2003: Zeta Jones hires ex-Sunday Times journalist for PR brief
03.02.2003: Douglases gave 'qualified consent' to photos
03.02.2003: Thorpe's son named in Zeta Jones case
03.02.2003: Hello! in 'covert' operation to get wedding pics
03.02.2003: Hollywood stars prepare for battle
27.01.2003: Bid to delay Hollywood stars' court case
16.01.2003: Hello! case will be media circus
21.12.2000: Zeta Jones to sue Hello!
21.12.2000: Zeta Jones free to sue Hello!
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