Rebel Wilson Gets Largest Australian Libel Payout, Judge says Bauer Media 'Orchestrated' Campaign against Pitch Perfect Actress - iMediaEthics
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Rebel Wilson will get $4.5 million Australian. (Credit: Rebel Wilson/Instagram)

Australian actress Rebel Wilson will get the largest libel payout in Australian history, $4.5 million Australian (about $3.6 million U.S.).  Wilson sued over eight Bauer Media stories in 2015 claiming she lied about how old she is, what her birth name was, what her parents’ occupation was, and other personal information.

Wilson won her lawsuit in 2015, and today, Australian judge Justice John Dixon announced her libel payout. Dixon ordered Bauer to pay her $650,000 in general damages and $3.9 million for special damages to account for movie roles Wilson lost. He ruled that Bauer Media didn’t “properly investigate” before publication, “repeated the offending allegations,” and “orchestrated” a campaign against Wilson to drive sales.

“Only a substantial sum in damages could convince the public that Ms Wilson is not a dishonest person and bring home the gravity of the reputational injury established before the jury,” the Sept. 13 ruling states. “In the full media glare, Bauer Media’s defence of this case attempted to characterise its articles as true or as trivial or not likely to be taken seriously. 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. The jury comprehensively rejected the defences and only a substantial damages award can now vindicate the plaintiff.”

Bauer Media sent iMediaEthics a statement from its General Counsel Adrian Goss:

“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 this country. This is what we are focused on.

“It is about continuing to do what we do best and that is delivering great content to more than 85% of Australian women across the country via our iconic portfolio.”

Wilson tweeted after the decision, saying Bauer Media’s “series of false articles” were a “sustained and malicious attack timed to coincide” with one of her movies, Pitch Perfect 2.

“The judge accepted without qualification that I had an extremely high reputation and that the damage inflicted on me was substantial,” she wrote. “He said the nature of the aggravated defamation and the unprecedented extent of dissemination makes vindication of particular importance. The judge said he knew that the info from anonymous paid source was false.”

She added that she plans to give money from the payout to “some great Australian charities” and the Australian film industry. “To me though, this case wasn’t about the money,” she wrote.

In a press release, Wilson’s lawyer, Richard Leder is quoted as saying in part, “Today’s decision sends another important message. Justice Dixon’s award recognises the serious harm caused to Rebel’s reputation and held Bauer Media to account for what the judge accepted was an orchestrated campaign against her.”

Leder pointed iMediaEthics to Wilson’s tweets and added, “yes, she is delighted by the vindication she has received by this verdict.”

 

UPDATED: 9/14/2017 2:58 PM EST With statement from Bauer Media

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Rebel Wilson Gets Largest Australian Libel Payout, Judge says Bauer Media ‘Orchestrated’ Campaign against Pitch Perfect Actress

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