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Jolie stunt double sues News Corp over phone hacking

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Media giant News Corp has suffered setback in its battle to contain the fall out from the British press phone hacking scandal Tuesday, with the revelation of the first known US law suit.

British national Eunice Huthart, US actress Angelina Jolie's Hollywood stunt double, filed a suit on June 13 in Los Angeles accusing the company's now defunct News of the World of intercepting her voice mail messages.

Rupert Murdoch's newspaper empire is already mired in a series of civil and criminal cases in relating to phone hacking in Britain, but Huthart's case is thought to be the first to cross the Atlantic.

It comes at a delicate time for the US-based company, which is undergoing a split to divide its publishing and newspaper arm from its more profitable film and television brands.

According to her suit, Huthart believes her phone was hacked "as a means to get information about Ms Jolie."

The complaint, filed in a federal US court seeks "maximum statutory actual damages" and punitive damages against News Corp, its News International and News Group Newspapers subsidiaries and other unidentified individuals.

It said Huthart, who is the godmother of Jolie's first biological child, lost numerous phone messages in 2004 and 2005, including from Jolie, while working on films including "Mr & Mrs Smith."

Huthart's mobile phone number, account number and personal code appeared in the notes of Glenn Mulcaire, who was imprisoned in Britain for six months in 2007 for intercepting phone messages at the request of News of the World.

The weekly was shut down in July 2011 after it emerged it had illegally accessed the mobile phone voice messages of hundreds of high-profile figures, including a missing teenager who was later found murdered.

The civil lawsuit accuses the defendants of violation of the United States' wiretap act, the stored communications act and invasion of privacy.

It said 10 unknown persons also bear responsibility because they knew or should have known of the phone hacking while working as journalists, private investigators or contractors for the media conglomerate.

Huthart, who is from the northern British city of Liverpool, said in the lawsuit that she met Jolie in 2000 and worked on films with her including "Beyond Borders" and "Tomb Raider 2."

The suit said that in 2004 and 2005, Huthart received numerous complaints that she did not respond to phone messages. These included calls from Jolie for hotel arrangements.

Huthart said she also failed to get messages from her teenage daughter and that her husband criticized her for not returning calls and that "their relationship suffered" because he believed she was having an affair.

The case is the first known US litigation on the scandal, which has already forced Murdoch to shut down the News of the World -- formerly Britain's best-selling newspaper -- and set aside millions to cover damages.

Rebekah Brooks, a key aide to Murdoch, is to go to trial in September in London with Prime Minister David Cameron's former spin doctor Andy Coulson, a former editor of News of the World.

Seven employees of Murdoch's British newspaper wing and Brooks' husband will be tried alongside them, following a vast police investigation.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130618/us-lawsuit-filed-against-news-corp-phone-hacking-0