Paper’s cross-claim bid fails in Rush case

27/04/2020 Posted by admin

Actor Geoffrey Rush is suing the Daily Telegraph for defamation over stories published last year.The Daily Telegraph’s “zealous if not desperate” attempt to again amend its defence in the defamation lawsuit brought by actor Geoffrey Rush has been rejected by a Federal Court judge.

Justice Michael Wigney on Friday also dismissed a bid by the tabloid to launch a cross-claim against the Sydney Theatre Company, describing the proposal as “very weak if not tenuous”.

The 66-year-old Oscar winner is suing the Telegraph and its journalist, Jonathon Moran, over stories published in late 2017 alleging Rush behaved inappropriately with a colleague during a Sydney Theatre Company production of King Lear in 2015.

Rush has rejected the allegations.

The Telegraph denies the articles made Rush out to be a pervert and a predator, arguing no allegations of a sexual nature were made.

In dismissing the two latest applications, Justice Wigney said the approach taken by the Telegraph and Moran to their defence “threatens to stymie or frustrate” the objective of having the claim resolved as quickly, inexpensively and efficiently as possible.

“It would be fair to say that while Nationwide and Mr Moran were quick to publish, they have been slow to defend.”

The judge has previously thrown out the newspaper’s truth defence and three paragraphs of its qualified privilege defence. He’s also refused to allow it to subpoena the STC.

“The publisher is not permitted to undertake what is referred to colloquially as a ‘fishing expedition’ in the hope of finding something in support of its plea,” Justice Wigney said in March.

He said on Friday the proposed fourth attempt at filing an amended defence led to suspicions about the real reason for their “zealous if not desperate” pursuit of the changes.

This was to “justify a further subpoena to the Sydney Theatre Company in the hope that documents” might support a defence of justification, the judge said.

In the proposed cross-claim, Nationwide News and Moran said the STC defamed Rush when it made three statements about him and it should contribute to any damages payable.

The first was when Moran asked for an “official comment”, the second was when an STC employee remained silent when they were read the contents of a story, and the third was made in a conversation with another employee who asked that part of what he said not be attributed to him.

“The claims in the proposed cross-claim were, on just about any view, novel,” the judge said.

“The notion of a major media organisation and one of its journalists joining one of its sources for a story is, to say the least, unusual.”

The proposed cross-claim faced “a number of major legal and factual hurdles” and, if allowed, would mean the case would be unlikely to be heard in 2018.

“(Rush) has filed evidence which strongly suggests that since the publications he has continued to suffer tremendous emotional and social hardship, including as a result of the continuing coverage of this case.”

The judge listed the defamation hearing for September 3 and ordered the parties to mediate before then.

Australian Associated Press

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