September 25, 2012 10:43 pm

News International tries to limit payouts

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News International tried to limit the amount of damages it could have to pay out to potential victims of phone hacking on Tuesday, ahead of a criminal case where the company’s former chief executive Rebekah Brooks is expected to enter a plea on Wednesday.

Lawyers representing the owner of News of the World newspaper argued in a civil court that it should not have to pay “exemplary damages” above and beyond the compensation it may be asked to give the more than 150 claimants.

The victims’ lawyers are pushing for extra damages to punish the media company, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, if they are found liable in a civil trial scheduled to begin in next spring.

Dinah Rose QC, News Corp lawyer, said the argument had little chance of success because there was no precedent in similar trials. She said the victims do not allege that the company made a calculated decision to allow phone-hacking because potential profits would outweigh any damages.

Ms Rose warned any case for exemplary damages could instead end up in the Supreme Court – taking years and increasing the cost of the case. She added that the evidence needed to justify the extra payment would also be required for other proceedings.

Rebekah Brooks, former chief executive of News International, is due to appear in court on Wednesday where she is expected to enter a plea on a charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

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