Rebel Wilson's Pitch Perfect Defamation Victory
(2018) 29(2) Entertainment Law Review 37
10 Pages Posted: 24 May 2018
Date Written: March 24, 2018
Few successful defamation plaintiffs are awarded six figure defamation damages in Australia. This is principally because damages for non-economic loss in defamation claims — the principal, indeed usually the only, head of damages sought — are now capped under statute. Few high-profile celebrities sue for defamation to final judgment in Australian courts. So when the comedian and actress, Rebel Wilson, was recently awarded almost AUD 4.57 million damages by a judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria, the case is newsworthy and noteworthy. Wilson sued a number of related women’s magazine titles essentially over allegations that she serially lied about many aspects of her life. The award of damages to Wilson is the largest ever made by an Australian court for a defamation claim. Besides the record-breaking quantum, Wilson’s claim against Bauer Media is important because it is the first time the statutory cap on damages for non-economic loss — an important feature of the national, uniform defamation laws introduced a little over a decade ago —has been exceeded. It is also significant because not only is it one of the rare cases in Australia where damages for economic loss have been sought and granted, it is the first case in Australia where damages for economic loss have been calculated on the basis of loss of opportunity. Wilson v Bauer Media also raises some difficult doctrinal questions of the interaction between defamation law and conflict of laws, where an international celebrity sues locally for damage to reputation which, due to the "grapevine effect", occurs outside the jurisdiction.
Keywords: defamation, damages, economic loss, conflict of laws, tort law, Australia, loss of opportunity, celebrity, grapevine effect
JEL Classification: K10, K30, K13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation