Australian actress Rebel Wilson has won a landslide victory against mega-media bully Bauer Media, publisher of Woman’s Day magazine, for a series of character assassination articles the jury agreed severely impacted her career. Portraying her as a serial liar, the media monolith has now been ordered to pay $4.56 million Australian, the largest defamation payment in the country’s legal history.
Wilson says she will give the money to Australian charities and film industry organizations.
STAND international director Edward Parkin said, “The vicious takedown attempt of Bauer Media against this actress is symptomatic of the worst of today’s tabloid media, and it is heartening that the jury, presented with the factual data, did not buy into this type of hatred, as reflected in their verdict.”
Supreme Court Justice John Dixon said the high damages award was necessary: “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.”
STAND’s international director Edward Parkin said, “The vicious takedown attempt of Bauer Media against this actress is symptomatic of the worst of today’s tabloid media, and it is heartening that the jury, presented with the factual data, did not buy into this type of hatred, as reflected in their verdict.”
The BBC’s coverage of this decision follows.
Ms Wilson successfully argued that a series of magazine articles had wrongly portrayed her as a serial liar.
In June a jury unanimously sided with Ms Wilson, who had claimed the articles stifled her career in Hollywood. She has said she will give the money away.
Bauer Media has always denied the articles were defamatory. A lawyer said it would consider the judgement.
Ms Wilson sought $A7m during the trial but had offered to settle for A$200,000 before it went to court.
Justice John Dixon told the Supreme Court of Victoria that the defamation case was “unprecedented in this country” because of its international reach.
“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,” he said on Wednesday.
The Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect actor was not in court on Wednesday, but in June she pledged to give any damages to “charity, scholarships or [investment] into the Aussie film industry to provide jobs”.
“I had to stand up to a bully, a huge media organisation, Bauer Media, who maliciously took me down in 2015 with a series of grubby and completely false articles,” she said at the time.
Ms Wilson sat in court for every day of the three-week trial and spent six days in the witness box herself.
She claimed that eight articles published by Bauer magazines in 2015 had portrayed her as a serial liar, and that this resulted in her being sacked from two feature films.
A six-woman jury rejected Bauer Media's arguments that the articles were substantially true, trivial, and did not affect Ms Wilson's acting career.
Ms Wilson said the case had exposed the “disgusting and disgraceful” conduct of some tabloid media and she looked forward to rebuilding her career.