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Rebel Wilson awarded $ 4.5 million in damages for defamatory magazine articles

Update

Sept. 14, 2017, 9:50 a.m.

Photo:
Rebel Wilson, who won her defamation case in June, was not in court. (Twitter: Rebel Wilson)

Magazine publisher Bauer Media was ordered to pay Hollywood actress Rebel Wilson more than $ 4.5 million in damages for defaming her in a series of stories in 2015.

This is the largest defamation damages award ever ordered by an Australian court.

“Today’s verdict is an important record – it’s roughly four times the highest previous verdict in a defamation case in Australia,” Wilson’s attorney Richard Leder told the Supreme Court of Melbourne.

“I think she’s going to be absolutely thrilled and she’ll probably say she crushed him.”

Wilson, who is in London, then tweeted that she was grateful for the payment and promised to donate the money, as she had said she would in June.

“Judge Dixon awarded me a record sum and I am extremely grateful to him,” she said.

“For me, however, this case was not about the money.

“I look forward to helping great Australian charities and supporting the Oz film industry with the damages I have received.”

Wilson was seeking $ 7 million after successfully suing the Woman’s Day editor for eight articles, which she described in court earlier this year as a “malicious and deliberate withdrawal” from her.

The court heard today that Wilson had offered to settle before trial for $ 200,000.

But in awarding damages, Judge John Dixon described the extent of the defamation as “unprecedented in this country” because of the articles’ global reach.

“At trial and in the media spotlight, Bauer Media attempted to characterize his articles as true, or trivial, or unlikely to be taken seriously,” he said.

“Substantial justification can only be obtained by an award of damages which point out that Ms. Wilson’s reputation as an actress of integrity has been wrongly damaged in a manner which has affected her market value in a huge market. worldwide. “

Rebel Wilson leaves the Supreme Court surrounded by his legal team.

Photo:
Rebel Wilson said she took steps to defend herself. (AAP: Julian Smith, file photo)

The actress had claimed $ 5.89 million in special damages and $ 1.2 million in general damages.

“Justice Dixon’s decision clearly provides her with a huge rationale, on top of the formidable rationale given to her by the jury’s verdict. She is going to be absolutely thrilled,” said Leder.

The damages awarded included $ 650,000 in general damages and $ 3,917,472 in special damages for lost occasions. Bauer will also have to pay the legal costs.

Mr Leder said Wilson would also claim all of the costs she incurred in running the case.

“A message to the tabloid media”

Judge Dixon sharply criticized Bauer Media for failing to properly investigate the Wilson allegations and for publishing them when they knew they were false.

“The information was based on a source which demanded payment and anonymity and which the publisher considered to have its work cut out for it,” he said.

“They repeated the incriminated allegations when they knew or anticipated that their defamatory slurs would be repeated in the entertainment and celebrity media.”

Wilson vs. Bauer

He said the continued publication of articles about Ms. Wilson’s past was motivated by the pursuit of profit.

“Their conduct was orchestrated, it was a campaign designed to insult Ms. Wilson, which would generate interest,” he said.

“Bauer Media published to advance its own corporate interests, to improve its circulation or increase the number of views, success, with the expectation of high profits.

“It kept the story alive for days. Bauer Media appreciated the risk of damage to the complainant’s reputation and didn’t care whether Ms. Wilson suffered as a result of pursuing her own corporate goal. . “

Bauer Media said in a statement that it was “reviewing 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 the country,” said Adrian Goss, General Counsel, on behalf of the company.

“This is what we are focusing on.”

Mr Leder said Justice Dixon’s words and the large payment would serve as a “message to the tabloids” not to work the same way.

Damages for non-economic losses in Victorian libel cases, such as emotional suffering, are capped at $ 389,500. But “special damages”, including loss of profits, are not capped.

The actress returned to Melbourne in May to testify for six days during the three-week trial.

At the time, she told court that she decided to take legal action to “defend herself” for herself and her family, after reports claimed she had publicly lied about her age, her real name. and his education.

“Even though it’s going to be tough getting on the pitch… I felt like I had to… I’m the only one doing it,” she said.

“I have enough money, I have the courage to come and do it and this magazine company is doing so well and not everyone has the strength to stand up for themselves.”

“Shocked and blinded”

In evidence ranging from emotional to comedic, the 37-year-old actress has told stories about her upbringing as a Sydney “bogan”, most notably as a junior dog handler and the family’s belief that they were related to Walt Disney.

“It’s just something I’ve always known, like knowing who your parents are,” she told the court on cross-examination.

“My Nana had a family tree made.

“I believe the purpose of why she did it was to see if we, her grandchildren, were entitled to royalties.”

A copy of an email filed with the Supreme Court of Victoria

Photo:
The lawsuit was shown emails between Woman’s Day and her source. (Supplied: Victorian Supreme Court)

During the trial, she got angry when she spoke about the impact the articles had on her personal and professional career.

She told the court that the articles fired her from the Trolls and Kung Fu Panda 3 movies because she was “too confrontational.”

“I was just absolutely shocked and blinded… I didn’t even know what to say, I was just extremely embarrassed,” she said.

“The director and producers said they liked my improv so much it reminded them of when Robin Williams recorded.

“I believe Mr. Katzenberg was referring to the negative press – that’s the only thing I can think of.”

Another of Wilson’s attorneys, Matthew Collins QC, said at the trial that Wilson could have made up to $ 18 million from a number of movie roles if the articles hadn’t hurt his career, and the amount requested was “conservative”.

The subjects:

courts-and-trials, crime-law-and-justice, information-and-communication, print media, melbourne-3000, vic

First publication

Sept. 13, 2017, 10:39 a.m.



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