15 Sep Huge compensation payout in Rebel Wilson libel victory
Hollywood actor Rebel Wilson has been awarded $4.567,472 million Australian dollars (approx £2,737,000 GBP) in damages following a lengthy defamation case against Bauer Media, the publisher in Australia ofWomen’s Day and Australian Women’s Weekly, brought against them for portraying her as a liar.
The award follows the unanimous jury verdict delivered on the 15th June which decided the actor been defamed. The libel action was brought over eight magazine articles which alleged that she had lied about her age, the origins of her first name, and her upbringing in Sydney. Ms Wilson had previously told the court that the stories had resulted in her being sacked from roles in Kung Fu Panda 3 and Trolls.
Delivering the damages ruling from the Supreme Court in Victoria Justice John Dixon said Bauer had “…acted in its own corporate interests to secure improved circulation, or increased views/hits” and that “ …unless substantial damages are awarded there is a real risk that the public will not be convinced of the seriousness of the defamation.’ He also noted that the reach of the publication, particularly into the US market, was unprecedented in Australian defamation law, because it was published online at exactly the same time as there was focus on her for the newly released movie Pitch Perfect 2.
The total damages awarded consisted of two parts. $650,000 was awarded in general damages to vindicate her reputation and compensate for the distress caused. The judge found Bauer had aggravated the damage so was able to dismiss the usual cap on general damages of $389,500 in favour of an award almost twice this sum. The judge found that Bauer had failed to properly investigate the allegations made against Wilson and published them knowing them to be false using a paid source who ‘had an axe to grind’. Secondly, they repeated the allegations when they knew or foresaw that these slurs would be repeated. And thirdly, their conduct was an orchestrated campaign designed to cast a slur on Wilson to sell magazines.
Wilson was also awarded $3,917,472 in special damages which are designed to compensate for specific financial loss caused by the actions of the defendant. In this case they covered the loss of new screen roles as a result of Bauer’s publications.
Wilson has previously stated that the compensation will be donated to charity, scholarships or the Australian film industry.