The Supreme Court of Victoria ordered Bauer Media to pay Sydney-born Rebel, best known for her roles in the Pitch Perfect films, £394,000 in general damages, including aggravated damages, plus £2.3 million in special damages, the highest ever for a libel case in Australia.
Justice John Dixon said, reading out a summary of his judgement: “The damage suffered by Miss Wilson warrants a substantial damages award to vindicate her and nail the lie.”
He said aggravated damages were justified due to Bauer Media’s “unprecedented” global reach and its decision to run a string of articles which claimed the Australian had lied about her age, real name and some childhood events, even after it knew the allegations were false.
Mr Dixon said: “The allegations were based on information from a source who required payment and anonymity and whom the editor considered had an axe to grind.”
He said Bauer Media had “kept the story alive for days” for its own profit, knowing the allegations in its Woman’s Day magazine would be picked up by other entertainment media worldwide, and as a result, Rebel missed out on a number of film roles.
The damages awarded were based on the judge’s estimate that she had lost out on three lead or co-lead roles, each worth at least £3.7 million, ascribing 20 percent of the lost earnings to Bauer Media’s articles.
Rebel, who received the judgement in the middle of the night in the UK, where she spends much of the time, said on social media she was “extremely grateful” for the record sum the judge had awarded her.
She said: “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.
“To me though, this case wasn’t about the money.”
Bauer Media said in a statement on its website it was considering the judgement.
The previous record for damages in a defamation case in Australia was £1.4 million, two legal experts said.
Peter Bartlett, a partner at law firm Minter Ellison, said: “Most…