Rebel Wilson’s defamation win slashed in court appeal
Hollywood actress Rebel Wilson’s record-setting $3.6 million defamation win was slashed on Thursday after a successful appeal, leaving her with only $453,395.
Last September, Wilson, an Australian national, won a case against Bauer Media, which she said had published articles depicting her as a serial liar.
The court awarded Wilson $3.6 million ($4.5 million Australian), which Wilson’s lawyers called the “largest defamation damages award in Australian legal history.”
Bauer Media appealed the size of the payoff, and on Thursday in Melbourne, the Court of Appeals ruled in their favor.
The original ruling, made by Justice John Dixon, had broken down into $3.1 million for special damages, and $522,000 in general damages.
In the appeal, Justice Pamela Tate slashed the special damages amount entirely, and lowered the general damages amount to $453,395.
Tate said that Wilson evidence was “not sufficient,” and that she was “unable to establish there was a causal connection between the defamatory publications for which Bauer was responsible and any loss that was suffered.”
She also rejected the claim that Wilson had suffered economic loss as a result of the articles.
“In particular, this court has rejected the finding (by Dixon) that Rebel Wilson lost the opportunity to earn $15 million by being cast in lead or co-lead roles in three Hollywood feature films during the period from mid-2015 to the end of 2016,” Tate said.
“It was important for us to revisit the award of damages,” said Adrian Goss, General Counsel for Bauer Media, in a statement. “The legal process has run its course and Bauer welcomes the court’s decision to set aside the entire award of damages for economic loss.”
“We will consider the implications of the judgment in relation to the cap on defamation damages, which has broader implications for the media industry. In the lead up to today, major media organizations united in an unprecedented way to support Bauer’s appeal in relation to that issue.”
‘Serial liar’ claim rejected
Last year’s ruling had followed a unanimous jury verdict that Bauer Media had defamed Wilson by branding her a “serial liar” who “fabricated almost every aspect of her life.”
The magazine published articles in Woman’s Day magazine claiming Wilson lied about her name, age and childhood so she could make it in Hollywood. As a result, the actress said, she missed out on several prominent film roles and other opportunities in the wake of the success of “Pitch Perfect 2,” which came out in May 2015.
Dixon had defended the high payout, telling 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.”
On Wednesday, Wilson had tweeted that she was unable to attend the appeal because she was filming in Europe.
“As I’ve said before, I have already WON the case and this is UNCHALLENGED!” she wrote.
“What happens tomorrow is to do with the losers @bauermedia quibbling about how much they now have to pay me. While this case was never about the money for me, I do hope to receive as much as possible to give away to charities and to support the Australian film industry.”