News Corp.’s U.K. publishing unit asked a London judge to dismiss a phone-hacking claim filed by a former adviser to Elle Macpherson, arguing there is no evidence her voice mails were accessed.
Mary-Ellen Field’s claim is “not fanciful, it is fantasy,” Michael Silverleaf, a lawyer for News Corp., said at a hearing today. “One is very sorry for the hurt that has been caused but the problem is, she suffered it at the hands of other people.”
Field, who believes voice mails she left Macpherson were intercepted by journalists at News Corp.’s now defunct News of the World, acted as a business adviser to the model until November 2005 when she was fired under suspicion of leaking private information to the tabloid press.
“One of the prime witnesses has thus far declined to assist the claimant,” Augustus Ullstein, Field’s lawyer, said in court. “Some of the most vital evidence is what was the basis for her dismissal by Ms. Macpherson.”
News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch closed the newspaper last year in response to the scandal. More than 70 civil lawsuits were settled by February, resulting in the cancellation of a trial scheduled for that month. Another 22 lawsuits were settled last week.
Judge Geoffrey Vos adjourned the hearing in order for Field’s attorneys to contact Macpherson to provide information regarding the firing and alleged leaking of information.
“It does appear to me that this is all a bit ham-fisted,” Vos said. “I have great concern for the basis of your claim. You have to focus on how it can be proven. The party has got to stop at some point.”
News Corp. settled 22 more lawsuits Dec. 14 as the company seeks to avoid a group civil trial next year. Singer James Blunt also settled his claim with the company according to a statement released today by his lawyers.