Former Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has confirmed that she was advised on Friday that her former staffer Brittany Higgins intends to file a compensation claim.
“I confirm that I was advised in March this year by Blumers, who act for Brittany Higgins, of a civil claim by Ms Higgins against me and other parties,” Ms Reynolds said.
“However, proceedings are yet to be filed. Blumers advised me yesterday that their client intends to progress the civil claim this month.”
It follow news.com.au’s reporting that Ms Higgins’ lawyers are in negotiations over a $1 million personal injury claim.
And the man originally charged over her alleged rape, Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann, is also considering civil remedies for a cash payout, with his legal team considering a Comcare claim, defamation action against media outlets and unfair dismissal from the jobs he lost after the allegations emerged.
Mr Lehrmann has always maintained his innocence and was never convicted of any crime.
Sources who have seen the legal documentation supporting Ms Higgins’ claim say that it includes compensation for lost earnings, future earnings and at-home support for Ms Higgins, who has not worked full-time since she went public with her account of an alleged incident at Parliament House.
The three respondents named in the legal correspondence are Senator Linda Reynolds, who was Ms Higgins’ direct employer at the time she was found in the ministerial suite by a security guard in 2019 and Liberal frontbencher Michaelia Cash and the Commonwealth.
But an official claim has not been filed while parties prepare to enter into mediation talks.
Ms Higgins’ personal lawyer Leon Zwier, who was a regular fixture at her criminal case in Canberra is aware of the claim.
However, Ms Higgins is being represented in the personal injury matter by Noor Blumer, a founding partner of Blumers Lawyer who has practised as a personal injury lawyer since 1992.
Ms Blumer has been quietly negotiating the claim since February.
It follows former Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s apology to Ms Higgins in parliament for the “many terrible experiences Ms Higgins has detailed during her time working at Parliament House and the treatment that she has described receiving whilst working here”.
But he insisted that apology was “by no means a reflection on the matters before a court”.
Ms Blumer declined to comment on the matter or any mediation talks when contacted.
A leading Canberra lawyer, Ms Blumer previously went public with her own complaint that former High Court judge Dyson Heydon tried to touch her leg under a table and kiss her at University of Canberra Law ball several years ago.
Mr Heydon issued a statement at the time through his lawyers denying “emphatically any allegation of sexual harassment or any offence”.
News of the compensation claim follows shock revelations over the weekend that police “unlawfully” sent Ms Higgins private counselling notes to Mr Lehrmann’s original defence team – who insisted they didn’t open it.
Further revelations that police held concerns there was insufficient evidence to charge Mr Lehrmann were also leaked to The Weekend Australian, prompting the prosecutor Shane Drumgold to raise concerns that this was – potentially – another unlawful disclosure.
Last year, Senator Reynolds offered a confidential defamation settlement to Ms Higgins after it emerged she had privately referred to her as a “lying cow”.
The money was donated to charity.
But Liberal sources said Ms Reynolds, who gave dramatic evidence at the criminal trial this year, was reluctant to settle the case.
“She will never, ever, agree to settle,” a Liberal source said.
The other former minister named in the claim, Senator Cash, emphatically denied in the ACT Supreme Court that she knew of Ms Higgins’ rape allegations more than a year before it became public in February 2021.
“Not a sexual element, no,” Senator Cash said.
“The first time that she mentioned an (alleged) sexual element was I think in the conversation on the 5th of February 2021.”