BRITAIN: Phone-hacking victims might sue in the U.S.
REPORTING FROM LONDON -– Media baron Rupert Murdoch faces more legal woes with the announcement Friday that alleged victims in Britain’s phone-hacking scandal will seek to file suit against News Corp. in the United States.
Mark Lewis, the lawyer representing many of the potential victims, said American attorneys are poised to bring legal action against News Corp. as the parent company of News International, which owned the now-defunct News of the World tabloid. The weekly paper is suspected of illicitly tapping into the cellphone voicemails of possibly thousands of Britons in its relentless pursuit of scoops.
Lewis told the BBC that, though the hacking occurred in Britain, News Corp. could be held liable.
“Although events might have happened in territories abroad, the American organization can be responsible,” Lewis said.
He added that lawyers in the U.S. were now trying to secure depositions from directors of the corporation, and will go higher up the chain of command if they can.
“Certainly Rupert Murdoch and [son] James Murdoch would be people they would want to ask questions of,” Lewis said.
The two Murdochs have already been subjected to a grilling by members of Parliament. In the U.S., some lawmakers have also called for a federal investigation into whether the cellphones belonging to victims of the Sept. 11 attacks or their relatives were hacked into, based on an unsubstantiated report by one British newspaper that such voicemail interceptions might have occurred.
The hacking scandal has reached into the highest echelons of British public life, embarrassing politicians who had cozied up to Murdoch’s media empire and forcing the resignation of officials of Scotland Yard, as well as powerful news executives.
-- Henry Chu
Photo: The family of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old who was kidnapped in 2002 and later found slain, listens as their lawyer, Mark Lewis, right, makes a statement following a July meeting with Rupert Murdoch in London. Milly's parents sued Murdoch's News of the World newspaper in Britain, saying the paper hacked into Milly's cellphone while she was missing. From left are Milly's mother, Sally Dowler; her sister, Gemma Dowler; and father, Bob Dowler. Credit: Andy Rain / EPA