News: US phone hacking claim by Eunice Huthart dismissed by Federal Judge

22 05 2014

Eunice HuthartA phone hacking claim by stuntwomanEunice Huthart against News Corporation and others in the US District Court in California was dismissed by Federal Judge Michael W Fitzgerald in a judgment handed down on 21 May 2014 [pdf].

Ms Huthart, in 2004 and 2005, worked as Angelina Jolie’s stunt double in Los Angeles, claimed that her voicemail was unlawfully intercepted by agents working for the Sun and the News of the World.  She alleged violations of the Stored Communications Act, 18 USC §§2701, 2707, the Wiretap Act, 18 USC §§2510, 2511, 2520, the California Constitution, Art 1 §1, the California Civil Code §§ 1708.8 and the common law.

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss on the ground of forum non conveniens, lack of personal jurisdiction over News International Limited and News Group Limited (which are UK compnaies), failure to state a claim to “pierce the corporate veil” in relation to News Corp” and a failure to state a claim on various other grounds.

The Judge said

“The underlying facts here do not seem to be in dispute, at least by these parties.  It appears, and certainly is alleged, that Plaintiff Eunice Huhart has suffered a grotesque invasion of her privacy.  This harm arose for no reasons other than Huthart’s successfully pursuing a demanding career associated with Los Angeles and having a friend who likewise is at the summit of success in an industry associated with Los Angeles. Nonetheless, for the reasons explained in this Order, the Court concludes that Huthart must obtain her relief from the courts of England and Wales”.

The Judge dealt with issue of forum conveniens”.  He held that the defendants established that England was an adequate alternative forum for the claims.  It then went on to consider the “private interest factors”.   Five of these favoured England, two were neutral and none in favour of the US.  In relation to the “public interest” factors.  Although California had some “minimal interest” in the action, that did not justify the burden that the litigation would impose on the court system and the local jury.

The Judge concluded

“Even giving some deference to Huthart’s choice of forum and acknowledging that California has some minimal interest in this action, the private interest factors and England’s interest in the action weigh strongly in favor of dismissal”

As a result, the motion to dismiss was granted.


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