Geoffrey Rush wins $2.87m in record-breaking defamation payout

Nationwide News, The Daily Telegraph’s publisher, has been ordered to pay Geoffrey Rush a record-breaking $2.87m in damages. It becomes Australia’s highest defamation payout to a single person, and a far cry from the $50,000 Rush’s barrister told the court he offered to settle for.

In a hearing yesterday, the Federal Court awarded Rush an additional $1.98m, on top of the $850,000 he was awarded at the time he won his defamation case, to account for the story’s impact on his income. This includes $1,060,773 for previous economic loss, $919,678 for future economic loss, and $42,302 in interest.

At the time of his judgment last month, Justice Michael Wigney said that Rush was likely to lose 50% of his potential earnings over the next 18 months, and 25% over the following six months.

A News Corp spokesperson said in response to the damages ruling: “We have no comment, but remind you that The Daily Telegraph has filed an appeal and the process continues.”

The Telegraph filed its appeal earlier this month, claiming that the judge could have been biased, after he ruled in favour of Rush. If this appeal is upheld, Rush’s win would be overturned, including the entire damages figure.

Bauer Media similarly appealed a defamation judgment after the publisher was ordered to pay Rebel Wilson $4.5m. Bauer was successful, with the court slashing the damages figure by 90%, leaving Wilson with $600,000.

Previously, barrister Lloyd Rayney held the record for the largest defamation payout in Australia to a single person, which stood at $2.6m.

The Daily Telegraph also applied to have Justice Wigney step back from the final hearing, which concerned an application Rush made to have The Daily Telegraph stopped from republishing the allegations which the court found to be defamatory.

In the same hearing that Justice Wigney handed down his final damages figure yesterday, he dismissed that application.

Wigney was scathing of The Daily Telegraph when handing down his decision that it had defamed Rush. The defamation case centred on the newspaper’s coverage of allegations that Rush behaved inappropriately towards fellow actor Eryn Jean Norvill in a 2015-16 production of King Lear.

“This was, in all circumstances, a recklessly irresponsible piece of sensationalist journalism of the worst kind,” Justice Wigney said.


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