Comic actor Rebel Wilson has reiterated her commitment to donate her record $4.5 million defamation payout to charity and the Australian film industry.
On Wednesday, the Hollywood star was awarded the highest defamation payout in Australian history after the publishers of Woman’s Day magazine were found to have defamed her in a series of articles alleging she was a liar.
“I’m looking forward to helping out some great Australian charities and supporting the Oz film industry with the damages I’ve received,” Wilson, 37, tweeted from London on Wednesday evening, repeating an earlier undertaking to give the money away.
But the star has still not detailed which charities will benefit from her gesture.
“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,” she tweeted.
“Also looking forward to getting back to my career and entertaining everyone!”, she said, adding that “this case wasn’t about the money”.
Wilson’s lawyer Richard Leder said outside the Supreme Court in Melbourne that Wilson’s intention was simply “holding Bauer Media to account”.
The damages awarded included $650,000 in general damages and $3,917,472 in special damages to compensate Wilson for film roles lost due to the damage to her reputation. Bauer will also be asked to pay Wilson’s court costs.
The judgement was almost four times the previous highest defamation finding in Australian legal history.
What made the payout even more astonishing, was that Wilson had offered to settle during pre-trial mediation for $200,000, the court was told.
Media law specialist and a partner with HWL Ebsworth Lawyers, Nicholas Pullen, called the judgement “breathtaking”.
Mr Pullen said not only was the amount of the judgement hugely significant, but also the amount awarded in special damages. Australian defamation cases are mostly limited to general damages which compensate the plaintiff for damage to reputation or feelings.
“At 140 pages this is a very, very learned judgement, so arriving at that amount has not been reached in a capricious fashion,” Mr Pullen said.
Mr Pullen said the judgement was a cautionary tale for any publisher, or even for anyone defaming someone on social media platforms.
“What it does is send out a clarion call to publishers, anyone tweeting and on social media that you have to watch out that you don’t just hurt their reputation or their feelings but also their career and their job prospects,” he said.
“This case will no doubt be used as a precedent [case] in future defamation suits.
“So the judge really took them to task [on that] … it’s a very serious allegation to put to somebody.”
Bauer Media lawyer Adrian Goss said the publisher was considering the outcome.
“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,” he said in a statement.