Rebel Wilson an Australian born actress and comedian, recently won a 4.6 million dollars (AUD) claim against publishers Bauer Media. The actress was interviewed by the media company which resulted in articles published in Woman’s Day and Australian Woman’s Weekly. The articles claimed that Ms. Wilson had lied about pertinent personal details. The company went to the extent of labeling the actress a ‘serial liar’.
In the beginning of Ms. Wilson’s defamation case, the actress offered to settle the claim outside of court. However, the media giant was certain they would prevail and refused to settle. As a result of the media company’s over confident stance, Rebel was forced to move forward with litigation.
The basic elements of the law that Ms. Wilson had to show included these three factors:
- The statement must be published
- The statement must identify one or more persons
- And there must be damage to the reputation of another. Damage to the reputation of another includes the following criteria:
- Harms the reputation of the person in the eyes of a reasonable and ordinary person or peer in the community
- Leads others to ridicule another or creates hostility toward the person
- Damages the person’s reputation either personally or publicly
In Ms. Wilson’s case the publication and identification of her story met the first two main elements. However, that left Rebel with the burden of proving that her reputation was damaged.
The media giant claimed that Ms. Wilson had lied about a significant number of personal facts; including her age, name and childhood information. For Rebel to succeed in her claim she simply had to prove that the information she revealed to the interviewer was true. Hence, destroying Bauer Media’s claim that she was a ‘serial liar’.
The greater issue then became whether Ms. Wilson had suffered damages as a result of being called a ‘serial liar’. In their defense the publisher claimed the information they published was true; Ms. Wilson was a habitual liar. However, the facts did not support this defense.
Instead it was shown that Rebel had not lied about any of the personal information she had shared with the public. In response, Bauer Media claimed that their allegations of her lack of truthfulness caused no real damage as people do not pay much attention to those types of statements. This defence was hugely unsuccessful for the media giant.
In this case, the court found that Ms. Rebel did suffer damage to her credibility and integrity. The court found that Ms. Wilson’s reputation could have easily been damaged in the eyes of the average person, that being labelled a serial liar would cause others to ridicule her and as such the publisher had damaged her reputation both personally and with her fans.
While it is true that a person may occasionally give inaccurate information, the court found that to be branded a ‘serial liar’ had dire consequences to the personal, professional and financial status of the young actress. The court found the accusations by the media company, and the nature of the language used was purposely timed to coincide with the release of Ms. Wilson’s new movie, hence intentionally setting out to do her financial harm. As such the court awarded a significant sum in damages to deter other media companies from attempting a similar form of financial sabotage and reckless disregard for the reputation and character of others.
Ms. Wilson was extremely satisfied with the outcome of the legal action. However she explained to the public that her concern was not with the monetary award. Instead, Rebel stated the more important result was to deter those who present facts to do so with accuracy and truthfulness, rather than using their power to bully and harm the reputation of celebrities and others.
In the event that you find yourself in need of assistance with this, or any other legal issue, please contact the law offices of Owen Hodge Lawyers. At Owen Hodge, we are always happy to assist clients in understanding the full ramifications of any and all of your legal needs. Please feel free to call us at your earliest convenience to schedule a consultation at 1800 770 780.