Entertainment Celebrity Rebel Wilson’s defamation battle ends as High Court rejects bid for appeal

Rebel Wilson’s defamation battle ends as High Court rejects bid for appeal

Rebel Wilson at an earlier court appearance in May. Photo: AAP
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Hollywood actress Rebel Wilson has failed in her bid for her appeal case to be heard in the High Court of Australia, ending her legal battle.

Wilson sat in the front row of the public gallery during the hearing, before calling it a “definitive end to the case” outside the court after the proceedings.

The decision on Friday comes after Wilson was ordered to pay back millions of dollars to a magazine publisher that was found to have defamed her in a series of tabloid stories.

Last year, Wilson was awarded more than $4.7 million in compensation — the largest defamation damages payout ever ordered by an Australian court — after a jury found she missed out on film roles because a series of articles claimed she had lied about her age, real name and childhood.

In awarding the damages in 2017, Justice John Dixon said the defamation extent was “unprecedented in this country” because of the articles’ global reach.

Justice Dixon strongly criticised Bauer Media for failing to properly investigate the claims about Wilson, and for publishing them despite knowing they were false.

But in June this year the Court of Appeal forced Wilson to pay back $4.1 million of those damages and 80 per cent of the magazine publisher’s legal costs, finding “there was no basis in the evidence for making any award of damages for economic loss”.

It ruled the trial judge had relied on evidence from Wilson and Hollywood agents to conclude that Wilson had lost career opportunities.

Within a month, Wilson’s lawyers sought special leave to appeal against that decision, arguing the court made several errors.

These included allegedly failing to consider that Wilson received dramatically fewer offers of leading roles after the articles were published in Woman’s Day, Women’s Weekly, OK Magazine and New Weekly.

Wilson initially sought $7 million in compensation over the eight articles, which she earlier described in court as a “malicious, deliberate take-down” of her.

She said it was published to coincide with the release of her biggest movie role to date and was designed to sell as many copies as possible.

Wilson’s lawyers had argued she missed out on film roles between mid-2015 and the end of 2016 due to the “grapevine effect” the articles had within the film industry.

When the $4.7 million in compensation was initially ordered, several media organisations questioned whether the decision set a new precedent for defamation payments.

But that precedent was not upheld, with Friday’s High Court appearance being the final step in the legal ladder.

‘I wanted to stand up to a bully’

Outside the High Court Wilson said her legal battle was now over.

“This has been a long fight and a long journey in the courts, but the great thing about today is that it brings it to a definitive end,” she said.

“The whole reason for bringing this case is that I wanted to stand up to a bully, which is Bauer Media.”

Wilson said bringing her appeal attempt to the High Court had been “an amazing experience” and she was “so proud of [herself] for seeing it through”.

“At the end of the day the jury restored my reputation, I’ve moved on personally and professionally,” she said.

“Today was just about a small point of special damages and for me it was never about the money, it was about standing up to a bully and I’ve done that.”