By Jennifer Saba
June 18 (Reuters) - A stunt double for Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie has sued News Corp over allegations its British newspapers hacked her phone, the first lawsuit in the United States against the company since the scandal broke two years ago.
The lawsuit, filed on June 13 by professional stunt double Eunice Huthart, said reporters from News Corp’s tabloids The Sun and the defunct News of the World, hacked her mobile phone while she was working for Jolie on location in Los Angeles.
The allegations include stories that ran in the tabloids about Jolie’s budding relationship with actor Brad Pitt - when only a tight circle of people had knowledge of it - while they were filming the movie “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.”
A spokesman for News Corp declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Huthart’s lawsuit said the hacking occurred in 2004 and 2005 while she was in the United States and Britain and resulted in lost voice messages that she never received. It said the London police have a file of Huthart’s phone logs demonstrating the times when representatives from News of the World called her mobile.
The missing voice mails provided information later used in news reports, according to the court document in U.S. District Court in California.
In one instance, Huthart was instructed to meet Jolie, who was checked into a hotel under the pseudonym “Pocahontas.” Huthart said she never received the message with the code name even though Jolie’s assistant said she left it for her on the phone.
The lawsuit said that the tabloids intercepted messages left by Jolie regarding her movie career. It cited a News of the World article with the headline “Pitt Stop for Jolie” that began “Hollywood babe Angelina Jolie has threatened to quit the movies for good,” according to the complaint.
Huthart of Liverpool, England, is godmother to one of Jolie’s children.
The phone hacking scandal sent shockwaves through the British establishment, forced the closure of the Sunday tabloid News of the World, prompted a huge police inquiry and lead to the arrest of more than 60 people.
But until the Huthart lawsuit, the scandal has been contained in Britain.
Huthart, who is seeking unspecified damages, is being represented by New York based attorneys Siegel Teitelbaum & Evans and Steven Hyman of McLaughlin & Stern as well as The Stein Law Firm in Los Angeles.
The New York law firms have ties to the British lawyer Mark Lewis, who represented the family of a murdered teenage girl, Milly Dowler. Two years ago, news broke that reporters from News of the World hacked the mobile phone of Dowler, provoking wide- spread outrage about the illicit news gathering practices of British tabloid journalists.
Last summer, Lewis teamed up with Norman Siegel of Siegel Teitelbaum & Evans and the former executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union and Steven Hyman of McLaughlin & Stern to pursue claims that four of his clients had been hacked by Rupert Murdoch’s now-defunct tabloid on U.S. soil.
Siegel and Hyman have been pursuing their own inquiry into the possible hacking of 9/11 victims’ phones by News of the World.
News Corp is preparing to split its publishing assets, which includes its British newspapers, the Wall Street Journal and book publisher HarperCollins, from its cable networks and movie studio on June 28.
The case is Eunice Huthart v. News Corporation et al in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (Western Division - Los Angeles) No. 13-04253