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 Guardian - - INTERNATIONAL - He­len David­son Syd­ney

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

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