A television current affairs program has won access to court papers in the long-standing damages stoush between the Hancock Family Memorial Foundation Ltd and Lang Hancock’s late solicitor, Carnegie Fieldhouse.
The move comes after a researcher for the ABC’s Four Corner’s program requested permission to inspect and copy the documents for a program being put together about Mr Hancock’s daughter, Gina Rinehart, and the Hancock Group of companies.
Today, Justice Rene Le Miere granted the researcher access to an amended statement of claim and defence filed as part of the civil lawsuit which centres on the sale of Lang Hancock’s “life governor’s share” in Hancock Prospecting to the Foundation at an allegedly inflated price 20 years ago.
Lloyd’s insurance syndicates are fighting the action, which alleges Mr Fieldhouse, who died in 2007, breached a duty of care when advising on the sale of the share for $20 million in 1991.
The civil claim, for which damages are capped at $10 million, has been on foot since 1995 – three years after Mr Hancock’s death – and claims the share was worthless because it lost its special powers when it left Mr Hancock’s hands.
Justice Le Miere has reserved his decision in the civil case but today delivered a judgment granting Four Corners access to the court documents.
Lawyers for the Foundation had opposed granting access, claiming the case had nothing to do with Gina Rinehart “and her activities as a mining magnate”, which is the focus of the television program.
The researcher had relied upon the principle of open justice and suggested access was necessary for a proper understanding of the issues involved in the trial.
Justice Le Miere found that the Foundation had not advanced a sufficient reason for denying the researcher access to the documents.
Gina Rinehart, who is Fairfax Media’s largest shareholder, was this month declared the world’s richest woman after her wealth almost trebled in the past year to more than $29 billion.