Rebel Wilson's Pitch Perfect Defamation Victory

10 Pages Posted: 24 May 2018  

David Rolph

The University of Sydney Law School

Michael Douglas

The University of Western Australia Law School

Date Written: March 24, 2018

Abstract

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

Rolph, David and Douglas, Michael, Rebel Wilson's Pitch Perfect Defamation Victory (March 24, 2018). (2018) 29(2) Entertainment Law Review 37; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 18/32; UWA School of Law Research Paper No. 2018. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3148794

David Rolph

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

Michael Douglas (Contact Author)

The University of Western Australia Law School ( email )

M253
35 Stirling Highway
Crawley, Western Australia 6009
Australia

HOME PAGE: http://www.web.uwa.edu.au/person/michael.c.douglas

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
103
rank
244,265
Abstract Views
398
PlumX