Details of Brittany Higgins’ $2.4 million settlement with Commonwealth revealed

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The Commonwealth agreed to pay $2.4 million under a settlement with Brittany Higgins that included $1.48 million for lost earning capacity, a formerly confidential deed released by the Federal Court reveals.

The deed of settlement was tendered as an exhibit and released by the court on Thursday in former federal Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann’s defamation case against Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson over an interview with his former colleague Higgins, aired on The Project on February 15, 2021.

Brittany Higgins and her fiance David Sharaz outside the Federal Court in Sydney during Bruce Lehrmann’s defamation case against Ten and Lisa Wilkinson.Credit: Kate Geraghty

Higgins, who was called to give evidence by Ten and Wilkinson as part of their defence to the claim, told the court she received about $1.9 million after settling her civil suit against the Commonwealth in December last year, subtracting legal fees and taxes.

The deed breaks down the gross settlement sum into five categories: $400,000 for hurt, distress and humiliation suffered by Higgins arising from alleged conduct during her employment; $1.48 million to cover lost earning capacity; $220,000 for medical expenses; $100,000 for past and future domestic assistance; and $245,000 for her legal costs.

It said that “Ms Higgins acknowledges that the Commonwealth may withhold from the settlement sum, and to pay to the relevant authority” a series of sums including tax.

Bruce Lehrmann outside the Federal Court in Sydney on Thursday.Credit: Steven Siewert

A draft statement of particulars, annexed to a letter from her lawyers attached to the deed of settlement, said Higgins was earning $77,926 gross per annum plus superannuation at the time she ceased employment, or $1163 per week plus super.

“The claimant expected to continue in employment until the age of 67 years,” the draft statement said. Future economic loss was calculated in the draft statement at $2.5 million.

The deed noted Higgins sent legal correspondence in December 2021 to the Commonwealth, identifying a range of potential legal claims that might be available to her “against the Commonwealth, Mr Lehrmann, [her former bosses] Senator [Linda] Reynolds, Senator [Michaelia] Cash, the Commonwealth … and the Liberal Party of Australia”.

The potential claims identified included contraventions of the Sex Discrimination Act and Fair Work Act, the deed said.

No admissions of liability were made under the terms of the settlement, the Federal Court heard on Thursday.

Lehrmann has strenuously denied Higgins’ allegation that he raped her on March 23, 2019, in the office of the then Liberal defence industry minister Linda Reynolds, for whom they both worked as advisers.

His ACT Supreme Court trial for sexual assault was aborted last year due to juror misconduct. The charge against Lehrmann was later dropped altogether owing to concerns about Higgins’ mental health.

He alleges Wilkinson’s interview with Higgins, which did not name him, defamed him by wrongly suggesting he was guilty of the alleged assault.

If the court finds he was identified by the broadcast, Ten and Wilkinson are seeking to rely on a range of defences including truth, which would require the court to be satisfied to the civil standard – on the balance of probabilities – that he raped Higgins. In a criminal trial, the prosecution must prove a person’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Ten and Wilkinson called Higgins to give evidence in the defamation case as part of their truth defence.

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