Publisher's lawyer seeks to avoid punitive fines in civil actions brought by Steve Coogan, Sky Andrew and other victims
News International wants a high court judge to strike out demands from phone-hacking victims for high-value exemplary damages in a case conference due to be heard in London on Friday.Olswang, the Murdoch-owned publisher's new lawyers, wants Mr Justice Vos to rule that the company should not be liable for punitive fines in any of the cluster of civil actions ranged against it.
News International is the defendant in more than 60 phone-hacking-related civil actions, including cases brought by Sheila Henry, the mother of 7/7 victim Christian Small, actor Steve Coogan and football agent Sky Andrew.
Trials in a handful of "lead actions" are expected to be conducted next year, with the intention of setting a benchmark for compensation cases in the future.
Exemplary damages are payments so large that they are intended not as compensation to the victim but to deter the publisher from doing something similar again.
News International is not disputing that it could be liable to pay a lower level of compensatory damages, in cases where it has admitted liability or a judge had ruled against it.
In October, News International reached a £2m settlement with the family of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, whose phone had been targeted by the News of the World. Rupert Murdoch also made a personal donation of £1m to charities nominated by the family.
Earlier this year, Sienna Miller agreed to £100,000 in compensation after the News of the World accepted unconditional liability for her phone hacking claims, which had been considered a high level of payout before the Dowler settlement was announced.