Rebel Wilson awarded record libel damages
Australian film actor given £2.7m for loss of roles Magazine claimed she had lied about her early life
The Australian actor Rebel Wilson has been awarded more than A$4.5m (£2.7m) in damages, plus interest and court costs, in her libel case against Bauer Media.
Wilson said the decision brought to an end a “long and hard court battle” and that she would not be keeping any of the money, which was the largest defamation payout in Australian legal history.
In June, a six-person jury found in favour of Wilson’s claim against the publisher of Woman’s Day and the Australian Women’s Weekly. The jury had been asked to consider 40 questions and eight claims of defamation relating to a series of articles accusing Wilson of being a serial liar about her age, real name and childhood.
At the supreme court in Melbourne yesterday, Justice John Dixon said the damages suffered by Wilson warranted a “substantial” payment and awarded the actor A$4,567,472. The award comprised A$650,000 in general damages, including aggravated damages, and A$3,917,472 in special damages for opportunities of screen roles lost as a result of the articles.
“Today was the end of a long and hard court battle against Bauer Media, who viciously tried to take me down with a series of false articles,” Wilson said in a series of tweets yesterday. “The judge accepted without qualification that I had an extremely high reputation and that the damage inflicted on me was substantial. He said the nature of the aggravated defamation and the unprecedented extent of dissemination makes vindication of particular importance. The judge said he knew that the info from anonymous paid source was false ... and that Bauer Media traded recklessly on my reputation in order to boost its own profits.”
Wilson said she was “extremely grateful” for the record sum, which she said was four times the previous Australian record, but that the case “wasn’t about the money”. “I’m looking forward to helping out some great Australian charities and supporting the Oz film industry with the damages I’ve received,” she said.
Dixon said the extent of the defamatory publication was “unprecedented in defamation litigation in this country”, because of the instantaneous distribution of the claims across the internet at the time when international media was highly focused on Wilson’s success following the release of Pitch Perfect 2. Dixon also found the A$389,500 cap on Victorian defamation cases did not apply because Wilson’s case warranted an award of aggravation.
Bauer had failed to properly investigate the allegations against Wilson, Dixon said, and published them “knowing them to be false”, from a source who had required payment and anonymity, and in the opinion of the editor “had an axe to grind”.
Yesterday morning general counsel for Bauer Media, Adrian Goss, said the company was considering the judgment.
“Bauer Media has a long history of delivering great stories to our readers and we have a reputation for developing some of the best editorial teams in this country. This is what we are focused on,” Goss said.
The Hollywood star, known for her comic roles, said she would use the money to help Australian charities and the country’s film industry