Australian actress Rebel Wilson has won more than $4.5m in damages, following her successful lawsuit of Bauer Media. Wilson was the subject of attack in a series of articles published by Woman’s Day and the Australian Women’s Weekly, both of which belong to successful global media group Bauer Media. The articles had portrayed her as a liar who had fabricated aspects of her upbringing and rise to stardom. They were released when Wilson’s career was peaking during the release schedule of Pitch Perfect 2.
The damages were unprecedented; Wilson lost a number of roles, was fired from several parts mid-production and began taking sleeping pills to deal with the stress, which manifested itself as a rash on her arms and around her mouth. At the supreme court in Melbourne on September 13th, Justice John Dixon declared that the severity of the damages justified the record settlement, which now stands as the largest defamation payout in Australian legal history.
Wilson, who is best known for her role as Fat Amy in the Pitch Perfect franchise, was awarded $4,567,472, with interest and legal costs to be determined at a later date. The settlement comprised of $650,000 in general damages but the majority of the payment was for special damages, noting the significant amount of acting opportunities Wilson lost as a direct result of the articles. The special damages came to $3,917,472 altogether.
“The ripples from this now historic defamation case look set to continue, with Wilson’s win providing a stern warning to an industry that feeds viciously off of gossip and vague splinters of truth.”
The fee was four times the previous Australian record but Wilson will not keep any of the money, instead choosing to support the Australian film industry and Australian charities with the substantial sum. However, despite the record-breaking fee, Wilson was seeking $7.093m in damages, with the actress hoping to recover the entire payment lost for one undisclosed film role ($5.893m) and a further $1.2m in general damages. Bauer Media’s legal team countered this claim in June, arguing that Wilson’s request should be thrown out of court because she had failed to supply paper evidence of lost work due to the defamatory nature of the articles.
Bauer Media were initially very confident of winning the case. They chose not to pay a small out-of-court settlement of $200,000 and from looking at the multi-million dollar fee and the severe damage done to Bauer’s already struggling publications, Bauer should’ve let Wilson take the money and run early on.
Furthermore, the ripples from this now historic defamation case look set to continue, with Wilson’s win providing a stern warning to an industry that feeds viciously off of gossip and vague splinters of truth. Wilson’s story is not only one that deals in justice and momentary defiance, it’s a case that will hopefully have a broad legacy. Journalism should look to prosper off of truth and news that changes the way we see things for the better. Wilson’s brave stance and subsequent victory is a big step towards ousting the salacious gossip that cripples our industry.