The “Pitch Perfect” actress argued Bauer Media’s articles hurt her career by unfairly painting her as a serial liar.
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The Australian Supreme Court has awarded actress Rebel Wilson a record $3.6 million ($4.5 million AUD) in her defamation case against Bauer Media, whose stories she says cost her movie roles in projects such as Trolls and the Kung Fu Panda franchise.
In June, a jury found in Wilson’s favor, ruling that the publisher defamed her by calling her a “serial liar” who falsified her age, name and other parts of her background in order to succeed in Hollywood.
Supreme Court Justice John Dixon said the company was negligent in fact-checking the allegations from its paid anonymous source. Accordingly, a substantial award amount was required to “vindicate” Wilson.
He told the court, “Unless substantial damages are awarded there is a real risk that the public will not be convinced of the seriousness of the defamation, but will rather wrongly conclude that the articles were trivial or not that serious.”
Wilson, 37, wasn’t in the courtroom due to work commitments in London but later tweeted, “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,” noting that the judge “answered every single point in my favor.”
Those points included her assertion that Bauer had “sustained a malicious attack timed to coincide with the (2015) release of Pitch (Perfect 2),” that the information from the outlet’s anonymous paid source was false and that the company “recklessly” traded on her reputation to “boost its own profits.”
“To me though,” she wrote, “this 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. Also looking forward to getting back to my career and entertaining everyone!”
In a statement, Bauer Media, which publishes the Australian magazines Woman’s Day, Australian Women’s Weekly, NW and OK, said it was “considering the judgment,” and whether they would appeal.
Their attorney, Georgina Schoff, unsuccessfully argued that Wilson had failed to prove the articles caused her financial losses and said her damage claim was “extraordinarily large.”
The company’s assertion that articles published in Australia would not impact her career in the United States also did not pass muster with Dixon since Bauer’s stories made the news overseas.
In an interview about the record judgment, Australian attorney Peter Coggins told the Murdoch-owned News.com.au, “We haven’t really had such a high-profile candidate run a defamation claim all the way to a trial like this — traditionally in Australia, defamation awards have been quite low, or often they’re settled out of court,” he explained.
He added that Bauer Media “really dug its heels in right until the very end — they took the risk and came out on the wrong side.”
Contributing: Associated Press
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