Gina Rinehart's fierce seven-month battle to stop three of her children from dragging her into a public court stoush was torpedoed yesterday after the NSW Court of Appeal dismissed her last bid to have their case thrown out.
In a unanimous decision, the court rejected her ongoing attempts to use a previously secret pact she had made with her children to keep the dispute behind closed doors.
The decision paves the way for a lengthy, bitter and public legal battle set to start in the NSW Supreme Court later this year.
It also means the mining magnate is now liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees paid by her children in the battle so far, averaging about $100,000 a month since the dispute started.
It was the 11th successive decision to not go Mrs Rinehart's way since her three eldest children - Hope Welker, Bianca Rinehart and John Hancock - launched their action against her seven months ago in a bid to have her kicked off the family trust.
In explosive documents before the NSW Supreme Court, they have accused her of "deceptive, manipulative and disgraceful conduct" in her handling of the multibillion-dollar trust.
Mr Hancock hailed the court decision yesterday. "It means the allegations against (Mrs Rinehart) will now be heard in open court rather than behind closed doors," he said.
"In this David and Goliath battle the scorecard now reads 11-0."
Mrs Rinehart had fought aggressively to get the case thrown out and keep the allegations a secret, initially winning an all-encompassing suppression order over the proceedings.
She argued that the case threatened multibillion-dollar mining and infrastructure projects and compromised the safety of her and her children and grandchildren. But her central claim was that the children's action violated a secret 2006 agreement - known as the Hope Downs Deed - not to challenge her role as trustee, say anything which could lower the public's opinion of her and to keep any family disputes behind closed doors.
But a series of judges rejected the arguments and her last attempt at having the case thrown out - and have the matter dealt with through confidential mediation - has now been lost.
A statement from Mrs Rinehart's camp yesterday said it had "recent correspondence and media" from one of the children which was "highly relevant" to the case.
If the NSW Court of Appeal had seen it, Mrs Rinehart's lawyers said they believed the decision would have gone their way.
They said they were considering their options, including an appeal to the High Court.
The statement said she had increased the value of the trust by 40,000 per cent and provided homes and luxuries to her children.
Mrs Rinehart's youngest child, Ginia, is the only one to have sided with her mother.
'It means the allegations against (Mrs Rinehart) will now be heard in open court rather than behind closed doors.' " *John Hancock *