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Douglases 'out of pocket' over Hello!

Jan 24 2004

The Western Mail

 

HOLLYWOOD couple Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas, below, were yesterday awarded more than three-quarters of the £4m they spent suing Hello! magazine over their wedding photographs.

The celebrity magazine, which used unauthorised pictures of the New York wedding in 2000, must foot the couple's massive legal bill together with the £1m it spent on the case.

A spokesperson for the couple and OK! magazine, which paid £1m to the couple for exclusive wedding pictures, claimed Hello! faced a total costs bill of £5m.

But Christopher Hutchings, a solicitor for Hello!, said the judge who heard the case, Mr Justice Lindsay, had restricted the Douglases costs' claim.

It meant the £1m plus damages the couple and OK! were awarded at the High Court would be wiped out.

"Hello! obviously faces a massive bill but when these figures are finally settled, the Douglases and OK! will also be hugely out of pocket," he said.

Mr Justice Lindsay ruled last April that Hello!'s use of unauthorised pictures taken secretly at the high security wedding was a breach of commercial confidentiality.

He awarded £14,000 to the couple and £1,033,156 to OK! which the claimants shared as total damages.

The judge yesterday gave a ruling on who must pay the costs of the hugely-expensive litigation which began more than three years ago when Hello! produced a Douglas wedding edition ahead of OK!'s.

He awarded the claimants 75% of the costs of the hearing into blame and 85% of the costs of the hearing to decide the amount of damages.

Mr Hutchings claimed, "When this matter goes to a cost judge [who allots the final amounts] Hello!'s liability for their side's costs will amount to as little as 50% of the claimants' total costs.

"This will mean that, however you look at it, the claimants are going to be hugely out of pocket and their damages award will be more than wiped out."

The solicitor said Hello! was also preparing an appeal against liability and the damages and this would be heard in the autumn.

"The competitive practice of muscling in on other people's scoops is long-established in the media.

"Hello! has always said that this litigation shouldn't have gone ahead and this judgment means that the other side's decision to go to court was probably not OK."

A spokesperson for the Douglases, who will also be appealing over the issue of infringement of privacy, said Mr Justice Lindsay had yesterday said Hello!'s conduct had "fallen well short of what is to be expected and in some respects was downright deceitful or misleading".

Of Hello!'s defence that media rivals always try to spoil exclusives, OK! said, "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 succession of judges."

Hello! had failed to win the right to cover the Douglases wedding despite having offered to pay more than OK! for exclusive coverage.

 
 

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