Actress Rebel Wilson has been awarded $4.56 million after winning a defamation action against Woman’s Day magazine.
In the Victorian Supreme Court, Justice John Dixon awarded $650,000 in general damages and $3.97 million in special damages against publisher Bauer Media.
A jury in June this year decided that Wilson was defamed in eight articles in 2015 calling her a serial liar.
Her lawyers had argued she should get more than $7 million because Wilson had missed out on major Hollywood film roles following what was described as a “malicious, deliberate take-down”.
Justice Dixon described the defamation as “unprecedented in this country”.
“The damage suffered by Miss Wilson warrants a substantial damages award to vindicate her and nail the lie,” the judge said.
He said: “Substantial vindication can only be achieved by an award of damages that underscores that Ms Wilson’s reputation as an actress of integrity was wrongly damaged in a manner that affected her marketability in a huge worldwide marketplace.”
The judge said the defamation came at a time when the film world had been focusing on Wilson because of her success in the movie Pitch Perfect.
“The publication had a long lasting and profound impact on Miss Wilson, both psychologically and physically, and caused her significant distress,” Justice Dixon said.
“Substantial damages are necessary to compensate her for the injury to her feelings.”
Justice Dixon found that Bauer Media failed to properly investigate the allegations and published them in Women’s Day knowing them to be false.
“The allegations were based on information from a source who required payment and anonymity and whom the editor considered had an axe to grind,” he said.
The $4.56 million payout is largest defamation damages payout ordered by an Australian court. Bauer Media will also have to pay costs and any interest due on the payout. The court had heard that Wilson had offered to settle for just $200,000.
Uniform national defamation laws introduced in Australia imposed a cap on damages of $250,000 (currently $389,500), although there are provisions for aggravated damages. Claimants can also seek redress for economic or business loss — the terms under which Wilson sought the extra compensation.
Media lawyer Mark O’Brien says the payout is the biggest he’s seen.
“I would summarise this as the plaintiff winning too well,” he told Business Insider. “In other words, it would be more likely to give rise to appeal points with such an extraordinary high verdict.
“In my long experience it is the highest defamation award to a plaintiff against media in Australia.”
Bauer Media is considering the judgement.
Wilson, who has said she would give any payout to charity, is currently in Europe.
And re my defamation case win, any $'s I receive will go to charity, scholarships or invested into the Aussie film industry to provide jobs
— Rebel Wilson (@RebelWilson) June 21, 2017
She has just finished filming Isn’t It Romantic, a romantic comedy, in New York.
Wilson, who graduated in 2003 from the Australian Theatre for Young People, played Toula in the television series Pizza.
She played Fat Amy in the musical films Pitch Perfect and Pitch Perfect 2.
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