A lawyer ordered to pay her builder neighbour $300,000 in damages after making defamatory claims on A Current Affair is appealing the decision.
Vanessa Hutley lived next door to Anthony Cosco in Balmain in Sydney’s inner west when she publicly accused him of bullying herself and her family, and directly endangering their lives.
Justice Stephen Rothman made his ruling in the Supreme Court in July 2020 and said the “petty neighbourhood squabble” was “essentially caused by the arrogance and feeling of superiority of the defendant”.
Mr Cosco’s lawyer Sue Chrysanthou SC on Tuesday told Justice John Basten, Justice Robert Macfarlan, and Justice Richard White they would have to find the earlier decision “demonstrably wrong” in order to interfere.
Ms Hutley presented herself “to one million viewers” as the victim of an unprovoked and ongoing campaign of shocking and appalling bullying by Mr Cosco, causing her children to fear walking down their street, the defence submits.
But this is “far from the truth of the matter”, with reference to one conversation where Ms Hutley and her partner threaten to “roast you, we’re lawyers”.
“Does this sound like people who are feeling intimidated or bullied,” Ms Chrysanthou said.
The bitter dispute began after Mr Cosco and his family bought the neighbouring house in 2013 and carried out constructions including a new fence.
In another incident the couple pushed down a safety barrier between the two properties three times, before reporting Mr Cosco for an unfair work site.
One of Mr Cosco’s labourers Maurice Cornielje testified during the trial that Ms Hutley and sometimes her son would hurl abuse at him and his coworkers almost every morning, calling them dumb and saying how “s***” they were as humans.
Ms Hutley said her family was threatened when Mr Cosco sealed a vent he had previously asked her to remove with expanding foam.
The highly toxic and flammable foam put her family and children in grave danger given an explosion could have happened while they were making a sandwich, Ms Hutley stated.
But Ms Chrysanthou said Ms Hutley knew of the incident before she herself used the kitchen, the foam was less combustible than timber, and the idea that an explosion could be caused by Mr Cosco as some kind of arsonist, was false.
The appeal hearing continues.