News Corp. Braces for 500 Phone-Hacking Legal Claims

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The task of trying to estimate the tab News Corporation will have to pick up by the time this phone hacking mess is all over just got a bit easier as The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that lawyers expect the company to face 500 legal claims in total. All thanks to News of the World. That's the estimate both News Corp. lawyers and victims' lawyers gave, so it seems like a solid one.

But let's not read too much into the fact that this news came out in the Journal, itself a News Corp. property: Reporter Paul Sonne doesn't appear to have been given special access to the legal team. Sonne quotes News Corp. lawyer Michael Silverleaf saying in court, not in an interview: "We're dealing with 500 claims or potential claims," Silverleaf is quoted as saying. Meanwhile, "Jeremy Morgan, a lawyer for the victims, put the estimate of settled, unresolved or potential claims at 520." It's already faced about 100 of those, the lawyers said.

The payouts vary pretty widely, with singer Charlotte Church getting one of the biggest at £600,000 pounds ($924,360). But the more rank-and-file claimants (read: civilians) have gotten smaller amounts. A group of 16 plaintiffs got an average of £40,000 pounds ($61,332) each back in January, but at the time, PaidContent's Robert Andrews warned against trying to extrapolate: "Today’s settlements vary between £25,000 (to a hacked journalist) and £130,000 (to actor Jude Law), for example." We still can't easily estimate what kinds of settlements News Corp. will have to pay out, but at least now we have an idea of how many times they'll be called on to do it.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.