UPDATED: Radio NZ estimates Lynne Snowdon case cost it $1.5 million
The state broadcaster is entitled to costs following Judge Anthony Ford's decision in the Employment Court to dismiss all of the former managing editor’s claims including allegations of fraud and unjustifiable dismissal.
Radio NZ spokesman John Barr said in a statement the broadcaster did not initiate the court action and has always been open to a settlement on reasonable terms.
He says in 2003 Radio NZ, through its lawyer Michael Quigg, had offered to settle the dispute for a monetary sum plus entitlements.
Ms Snowdon rejected the offer and accused Radio NZ of attempting to obstruct the course of an investigation. She referred the matter to the police, who rejected this allegation.
Mr Barr says Radio NZ later made other offers to settle but these were also rejected and responded to with claims for "extortionate" sums in settlement, in some cases amounting to many millions of dollars.
Ms Snowdon went to the Employment Court accusing the public broadcaster of unjustifiable dismissal and fraud but Judge Anthony Ford dismissed all the claims.
After a hearing lasting 47 sitting days, the court ruled Ms Snowdon was principally responsible for the breakdown in her employment relationship.
Ms Snowdon can still appeal the case. Her lawyer, Colin Curruthers QC, was unavailable for comment today.
Judge Ford awarded Radio NZ costs, which MinterEllisonRuddWatts partner Megan Richards says could easily run into the millions given Ms Snowdon’s evidence and the duration of the trial.
She says given Ms Snowdon has already claimed legal fees have cost her over $3.5 million, the costs award to Radio NZ would likely be the biggest costs decision ever made.
In 2006, Radio NZ revealed it had already spent $411,000 on the case, which had been running since 2002.
Ms Richards described the length of the trial as extraordinary as Ms Snowdon had taken every procedural option open to her, including attempting to recuse an earlier judge, Judge Coral Shaw. She says Radio NZ’s lawyer Michael Quigg would have spent a large period of time each year working on the case .
Radio NZ may also be entitled to the costs of forensic experts such as John Fisk and Rob Buchanan who investigated the claims Ms Snowdon made.
Ms Snowdon had already paid $240,000 security for costs in November last year to get the case heard in the Employment Court.
But as well as the litigation costs Ms Richards says an employee trying to take on such claims would need to think about the rest of their careers.
“A lesson for employees taking these claims is to think through the consequences because it is a public process – if you don’t settle this, there will be judgments.”
Ms Snowdon had made matters worse by going to the National Business Review and leaking information about the case.
Ms Richards says any potential employer would weigh up the claims Ms Snowdon had make and rethink taking her on.
Ms Snowdon still has a pending High Courtcase against Radio NZ and former Radio NZ chief executive Sharon Crosbie for $1.45 million, and Deloitte for $1.2 million.
That case had been put on hold pending the Employment Court decision.
|RAW DATA: Judgment (PDF)||8.17 MB|