Actor Jude Law’s case was chosen to be one of the first heard over phone-hacking at a News Corp. U.K. newspaper after his lawyers claimed that a “senior” News of the World executive might be involved in the practice.
Law’s lawyer, Hugh Tomlinson, said at a hearing Friday that disclosures in the case indicated the involvement of the executive, which he didn’t identify. Sienna Miller, Law’s former girlfriend, last week reached a tentative agreement to settle her lawsuit for 100,000 pounds ($162,000).
At least two dozen celebrities and politicians have sued Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. (NYSE: NWS) over allegations that the newspaper illegally accessed mobile-phone messages for stories. The New York-based company last month apologized and offered to settle some of the cases after journalists linked to the paper were arrested.
“It is perhaps by a whisker that” that Law was selected for “a lead case” Vos said. The possibility that a senior executive was involved could lead to “a higher level of damages,” he said.
Law joins designer Kelly Hoppen, sports agent Sky Andrew, soccer commentator Andy Gray and lawmaker Chris Bryant who were also chosen to bring so-called test cases by Judge Geoffrey Vos at a hearing Friday.
“Now that we have seen the disclosure we believe it is entirely false that the named executive is implicated in the alleged voice mail interception of Jude Law,” News Corp.’s U.K. unit said in an e-mailed statement.
Law was also selected for his “significant profile,” Vos said. The trials could start as early as January. Hayley Barlow, a spokeswoman for News Corp., declined to comment.
“I suppose judges, like the rest of us, like a bit of celebrity,” Duncan Lamont, a lawyer at Charles Russell LLP, said in a telephone interview. It was “surprising” that Law was chosen as he only recently filed his claim, he said.
The judge also selected five claims to act as a backup should any of the lead cases settle. Vos chose former lawmaker George Galloway, actor Steve Coogan, ex-soccer player Paul Gascoigne, publicist Nicola Phillips and Mary-Ellen Field, a former adviser to model Elle Macpherson.
Vos said he’d received a note from the police that said they had identified 149 voice mail pin numbers that might indicate hacking, and had also identified around 400 telephone numbers that might have been hacked.
The scandal started when a former News of the World editor and a private investigator were sent to jail in 2007 for hacking into members of the royal household’s mobile phones. Former News of the World Editor Andy Coulson resigned as Prime Minister David Cameron’s head of communications in January over claims the practice took place while he was at the paper.