Major media organisations have backed Bauer Media’s challenge to the massive $4.5m in damages following Rebel Wilson’s defamation win last year.
Bauer is not contesting the verdict, but the amount of damages, normally capped at $389,500.
ABC, Fairfax Media, News Corp, Seven, Nine, and Macquarie Media are all seeking to have their say in Bauer appeal of the decision, arguing the payout could have an unwanted effect on public interest journalism. They are seeking leave to address to court.
Nine is also the company which featured Wilson as a Stan brand ambassador while Seven paid Wilson $200,000 to appear in 2 recent recordings of The Big Music Quiz.
Justice John Dixon awarded Wilson $3.9 million in special damages, and $650,000 of general damages.
Media lawyer Justin Quill wrote in the Herald Sun on behalf of the six.
“The fact six media companies have combined demonstrates how serious the issue is,” Quill said.
“She was awarded more than $3.9m in special damages for what she claimed were her lost earnings. It seems like a lot to most of us – but Wilson is a movie actor getting some good roles. On top of her special damages, she also received $650,000 in general damages.
“Hang on a minute, I hear you saying. Isn’t the most you can get $389,500? Well, in my opinion, yes. But Justice Dixon found the cap doesn’t apply because his Honour had awarded Wilson aggravated damages in the circumstances of publication – because Bauer was found to have aggravated the hurt feelings she had suffered.”
Bauer Media’s general counsel Adrian Goss welcomed support from the media company’s rivals rivals: “Bauer isn’t surprised to see Australia’s largest media organisations supporting its position in relation to the cap on defamation damages. That aspect of the court’s decision has significant consequences for all media.”
Rebel Wilson has promised to donate her defamation payout to charity, scholarships or the Australian film industry.
The matter goes to court on April 18.