Mirabella wins defamation case against local paper

Sophie Mirabella broke down in tears and simply said “thank you” to the jury after they found a Benalla Ensign story stating she pushed Cathy McGowan was defamatory.

The five men and one woman had sat through five days of evidence and arguments in the Wangaratta County Court trial, but took just 45 minutes of deliberations to reach their verdict by 5pm on Wednesday.

Both sides agreed Ms McGowan was not pushed, but the defence had tried to argue the story was “substantially true” because Mrs Mirabella allegedly pushed Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt at the Benalla nursing home event on April 15, 2016.

Speaking after the verdict was handed down, Mrs Mirabella said she was grateful her belief in the legal system had cleared her name.

“It shouldn’t have got to this point, it should have been fixed up soon after the Ensignpublished,” she said.

“It’s been a long and difficult process and I just want to thank the common sense of the jury, thank my family who have stood by me and suffered through a lot of this and of course my lawyers and friends who have been there.”

“Just nonsense” were the words used by Mrs Mirabella’s legal team to dismiss the Ensign’s defence of its incorrect article.

Barrister Georgina Schoff told the jury people would have clearly thought less of Mrs Mirabella after reading the claims she “pushed” a political opponent.

She said the most important fact was true: both sides admitted her client did not push Ms McGowan.

The argument that a “push” was “a figure of speech” was strongly rejected.

“How does someone figuratively push someone out of the way?” Ms Schoff asked.

“It means exactly what it says.”

Ms Schoff said Mrs Mirabella pleaded with the Ensign, Ms McGowan and Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt at the time to clear her name, but was given no help and had to resort to a defamation claim.

She said in this context, it was “sensible” for her client to secretly record a conversation with Mr Wyatt, asking for his side of the story.

Ms McGowan was criticised for being the only witness to use the word “push” to describe Mrs Mirabella’s contact on Mr Wyatt, during her evidence to the court.

“She issued a statement that simply muddied the water,” Ms Schoff said.

“She and her supporters used it for their political advantage.”

The trial had heard numerous instances of the Ensign article being shared on Twitter, along with insults directed at Mrs Mirabella.

“Truthful and honest reporting is very important … it is particularly important to the voters of Indi,” Ms Schott said.

In one last attempt to prevent a verdict of defamation, Mrs Mirabella was accused of “deceit” in her efforts to win the court case.

Barrister David Gilbertson’s closing address called on the jury to find the story claiming Mrs Mirabella pushed Indi MP Cathy McGowan did not affect her reputation.

The Benalla Ensign’s defence was Mrs Mirabella pushed Minister Ken Wyatt.

“It doesn’t matter, we suggest to you, the article refers to Cathy McGowan personally,” Mr Gilbertson said.

“To place someone’s hands on your chest, having the effect of preventing them turning, is a push.”

He claimed the contradicting evidence of Ms McGowan and Mr Wyatt about where they were standing at the time did not matter because they both said they saw Mrs Mirabella’s hands on the minister’s chest.

Mrs Mirabella’s secret recording of a conversation with Mr Wyatt at a Liberal Party event last year was used to question her credibility.

“She wanted to set Mr Wyatt up in case he gave unfavourable evidence towards her,” Mr Gilbertson said.

“She was harassing him on that recording … At one stage he said ‘you were physically…’ and she cut him off.”

The Ensign’s legal team did not call editor Libby Price to give evidence during the trial and she did not attend Wangaratta County Court throughout proceedings.

The jury was instead asked to believe Mr Wyatt and find it was “deceitful” for Mrs Mirabella to try to discuss her evidence with him.

Both parties will return to court on Thursday for judge Michael Macnamara to assess what damages should be awarded to Mrs Mirabella.


Mirabella 'sick' over defamatory article

Former federal Liberal frontbencher Sophie Mirabella was "sick to her stomach" when she read an article that allegedly defamed her, a court has been told

Former Liberal frontbencher Sophie Mirabella felt "sick to her stomach" when she read an article wrongly accusing her of pushing an opponent during a photo opportunity while campaigning for the 2016 federal election.

Ms Mirabella is suing weekly newspaper The Benalla Ensign and its editor Libby Price in the Victorian County Court over an April 2016 article about an encounter with Indi member Cathy McGowan.

Ms Mirabella, who lost the seat to Ms McGowan in 2013, says the article defamed her by falsely claiming she pushed the incumbent MP out of the way of a photograph for her own political benefit.

Barrister Georgina Schoff QC said the newspaper admits the article, which had the headline "Awkward encounter", was wrong.

"One of the strange things about this case is that there is no dispute that the defendants got this wrong," she told a jury of six people in Wangaratta on Thursday.

Ms Schoff said The Benalla Ensign admits Ms Mirabella did not push Ms McGowan.

"That article was fake news," the barrister said.

The offending article was published five days after then-aged care minister Ken Wyatt visited a Benalla facility on April 15, 2016 for the opening of a new wing.

Ms McGowan was also present and requested a photo with Mr Wyatt.

But a Liberal Party staffer and Ms Mirabella wanted to avoid "giving her legitimacy" with Liberal voters.

Mr Wyatt subsequently made an excuse about not having enough time, and Ms McGowan asked Ms Mirabella "you don't mind, do you?"

The Liberal candidate replied: "If you wanted to have promotional material with a Liberal minister, you should have run as a Liberal candidate".

Five days later, The Benalla Ensign ran its article claiming Ms Mirabella had "publicly pushed" Ms McGowan.

Ms Price did not witness the encounter, instead relying on four sources, Ms Schoff said.

Six months later, after the federal election, The Benalla Ensign acknowledged Ms McGowan was not pushed.

But by then Ms Mirabella knew the story would never go away.

"The paper got it wrong and she needs you to tell the whole world that the paper got it wrong," Ms Schoff said.

Counsel for Ms Price and the newspaper, David Gilbertson QC, said the article was substantially true.

"The article wasn't 'fake news' at all," he told the jury of five men and one woman.

Saying someone had pushed someone out of the way "is a figure of speech", he said.

Mr Gilbertson also said Mr Wyatt will give evidence Ms Mirabella had put her hands on his chest to prevent him turning and having his photo taken.

"It is substantially true that Ms Mirabella pushed a politician to prevent him from having a photo being taken with Ms McGowan," he said.

Ms Mirabella appeared emotional as she described her entry into politics and her family background from the witness box on Thursday afternoon.

She is due to continue giving evidence on Friday.

Mr Wyatt and Ms McGowan are scheduled to appear next week.

Eddie McGuire can sue for defamation over fake ad, just not against Facebook

Eddie McGuire has a firm case against the creators of a spoof ad claiming he had used their product to treat erectile dysfunction, lawyers suggest, but he might find it harder to make his claim against Facebook stand up.

The high-profile sports and media identity vowed this week to sue Facebook over an ad campaign it carried for Tryvexan, an erectile dysfunction treatment available to purchase only via the internet.

McGuire insists the ad falsely claimed he has a connection to the product and the company behind it, and falsely suggested he had suffered erectile dysfunction.

"It’s not only fake news, it’s actually defamatory, and it’s incorrect," McGuire said in a lengthy discussion of the issue with his Triple M Hot Breakfast co-hosts Wil Anderson and Luke Darcy this week.

"If this was an ad going into the Herald Sun or The Age somebody would check it out to see if it was bogus or not. They [Facebook] are promulgating bogus ads. How can they do that? There is no regulation in this whatsoever."

McGuire spoke on air to James Naughton, a defamation expert at Gordon Legal, and appeared to hire him to take the case. He also claimed he had hired a digital investigation firm, Asia Pacific Security Group, to trace the origins of the ad.

"I’m building a case and I’m going to sue their arse off," he said.

On air, Naughton advised McGuire that he appeared to have a solid case. "You certainly do have a claim. In Australia … your reputation is protected by the laws of defamation, and you can certainly bring a claim."

He suggested McGuire might claim "damage to your reputation, [that] your standing has been tarnished."

That view was backed by defamation lawyer Justin Quill, who said McGuire would have an "open and shut case" against the creators of the ad – "if he could find them and if they were within the Australian jurisdiction."




Sam Newman deserves a Walkley for journalism, claims Eddie McGuire

Add to shortlist

That might be a big if, though. A call to the Australian helpline for Tryvexan was answered by an operator at what appeared to be an offshore call centre. When asked where the company was based, he claimed it was headquartered in Salt Lake City, in the United States. A series of domain names related to the company are registered in Panama.

Suing Facebook – McGuire’s bigger target – could be even more challenging though.

"There’s a case underway right now in the High Court that might challenge this, but the law in Australia as it stands says Facebook and Google are not liable for defamatory information they carry while they don’t know about it," says Quill. "But if they don’t take it down within a reasonable period of being notified they could be in strife."

In this case, Facebook blocked the ads quickly, which would appear to mitigate its liability.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the company said: "We do not allow adverts which are misleading or false on Facebook and have explained to Eddie McGuire’s team that they should report any adverts that infringe his rights and they will be removed.

"We are in contact with his team, offering to help and have promptly investigated their requests. I can confirm that several adverts and accounts that violated our advertising policies have been taken down."

That prompt response notwithstanding, Quill says McGuire might yet decide to tackle the social media giant's publish-first, remove-later approach.

"Eddie might decide he’s going to be the champion of taking Facebook on and making them a publisher that’s accountable, as other publishers are, or exposing them as actually not being a publisher at all. They can’t have it both ways."

As well as defamation, Perth-based lawyer Roger Blow believes McGuire could have grounds for commercial damages on the grounds that Tryvexan falsely represented him as having an interest in the company, and did so without remunerating him.

And because McGuire is such a high-profile individual, Facebook might struggle to maintain its typical hands-off stance.

"The issue Facebook could have here is how big was this and could they be expected to have had a high level of foreknowledge," Blow says. "If they knew this was likely to be defamatory, they might need to be a little more wary of Mr McGuire and his lawyers."

Should any of this actually reach the courts, Blow suggests there could be one bizarre twist McGuire might not have seen coming.

"You could argue that it’s 2018, and we should all be more accepting of erectile dysfunction," he says. "You could almost attack the plaintiff for saying it’s a negative thing."

Eddie McGuire was approached for comment but did not return calls.

Rebel Wilson back in court as Bauer fights record $4.5m damages bill

Rebel Wilson has returned to court in Melbourne to fight an appeal by magazine publisher Bauer Media, which was last year found to have defamed the Hollywood star.

The Pitch Perfect actress sat in the front row of the Court of Appeal’s Green Court on Wednesday morning, flanked by her family and lawyers.

Ms Wilson 38, was awarded a record $4.56 million last year after Bauer – publisher of Woman’s Day and The Australian Women’s Weekly – was found to have defamed her in a series of articles that painted her as a serial liar.

The payout was the largest for a defamation damages bill in Australian legal history.

On Wednesday, the court heard Bauer Media does not wish to challenge the jury’s verdict from last year, which found the company had defamed the Hollywood star.

However, the magazine giant wishes to have the economic damages of $3.9 million set aside on the basis of ‘‘errors of fact and law’’.

‘‘The evidence did not support the trial judge’s award,’’ Bauer Media’s barrister Michael Wheelahan, QC told the court.

‘‘Damages were manifestly excessive.’’

Bauer argued the Court of Appeal should also reassess the $650,000 in non-economic losses Ms Wilson was awarded last year.

Following a Supreme Court of Victoria trial last June, Justice John Dixon said Bauer wrongly damaged Wilson's "reputation as an actress of integrity".

He ordered them to pay the 38-year-old a record $4.5 million in damages – $650,000 in general damages and $3,917,472 in special damages.

Justice Dixon said a substantial amount was required to vindicate the star.

The publisher was expected to challenge the finding that a "cap" on general damages does not apply because there was an award of aggravated damages.

Bauer was also planning to argue the general damages award is excessive compared to other mass media defamation payments.

In addition, Bauer will challenge the finding that Wilson needed to be compensated for film roles she claimed to have lost as a result of the publications, claiming there's not enough evidence.

The Hollywood star landed in Australia on Monday. She is due to co-host The Project on Network Ten on Thursday evening.


Knox Grammar mothers sue each other for defamation over WeChat comments

Two mothers at one of Sydney's top private schools are suing each other for defamation after posting comments about each other on the instant messaging app WeChat.

Ava Wei Wu and Michelle Li Chen both had sons at Knox Grammar, in Sydney's northern suburbs, and became friends in mid-2011.

However, their friendship soured in March 2016 and both women took to various Knox parents' groups on WeChat, sparking a feud that has gone all the way to the NSW Supreme Court.

Ms Wu, a mother of two, claimed Ms Chen's comments convey the defamatory imputations that Ms Wu taught children to act with violence, attempted to commit murder and tried to run over a policeman.

In a statement of claim, obtained by ABC News, Ms Wu said her former friend made her out to be a "savage person", an incompetent manager and an unethical person in a series of posts on March 5, 2016. She claims some of the posts were seen by up to 1,000 WeChat forum members.

However Ms Chen launched her own defamation case, claiming Ms Wu published a series of offensive posts about her.

Ms Chen said those posts were seen by at least 64 members of the English as a Second Language (ESL) group at Knox and 24 members of the Knox Mothers WeChat group.

Mothers trade barbs

Screenshots of the chats tendered to the court show Ms Wu wrote posts including: "In front of me you call me baby and darling, and behind my back you stab me madly with a knife.

"You really think that you are a high class lady by sending your children to a private school, and by buying a few fake handbags?

"And don't forget, the reason why your son got into Knox is because I noticed the vacancy for you and told you and acted as your referee, I even went to the office with you.

"Don't get so innocent when you are really a bitch! Let me see who is phony and pretentious! Fake Face, Michelle Chen! Look here!"

Ms Chen replied: "@Ava you vixen! Yeah? I just finished my meeting and I see you bitching like a vixen!"

On separate forums Ms Chen accused Ms Wu of "destroying" another woman's family by having an affair with a married man in their native China.

"...such a person who was a mistress and destroyed the families of others is bad in essence," Ms Chen wrote.

"She was the one that boasted about helping my son get into private school by her acting as a referee, when I actually already had two friends write reference letters."

She also wrote: "How dare you attack others when you buy fake products yourself?"

And, "Ava, self-proclaimed chair of ESL, brutally attacked and abused me in our year 4 group and her friendship circle".

Ms Chen looks to truth defence

In her defence filed with the court, Ms Chen denied her posts convey the defamatory imputations Ms Wu claims.

However, if the court does find the imputations are conveyed, Ms Chen said she can successfully defend her conduct because what she had said was largely true.

She said on a 2012 playdate, Ms Wu encouraged Ms Chen's 12-year-old daughter to hit Ms Wu's 7-year-old. She further claimed at a dinner party Ms Wu's husband said his wife had once tried to avoid a random breath test and attempted to run down a police officer. And she accused Ms Wu of being an ineffective convenor of the Knox non-English-speaking parents group because of her limited grasp of English.

In May the mothers were ordered into mediation however they were unable to settle the matter. Earlier this month the case was set down for a five-day trial before Justice Lucy McCallum without a jury in July next year.

In a statement, Knox Grammar said: "The dispute is a matter between the two individuals and it would be inappropriate for us to comment further while the matter is before the courts.

"The social media group was not an official communication channel nor endorsed by the school."


Rebel Wilson awarded $4.5m in damages over defamatory magazine articles

Magazine publisher Bauer Media has been ordered to pay Hollywood actress Rebel Wilson more than $4.5 million in damages for defaming her in a series of stories in 2015.

It is the largest defamation damages payout ever ordered by an Australian court.

"Today's verdict is a significant record — it's about four times the highest previous verdict in a defamation case in Australia," Wilson's lawyer Richard Leder said outside the Supreme Court in Melbourne.

"I think she's going to be absolutely stoked and she'll probably say she crushed it."

Wilson, who is in London, later tweeted that she was going through the full judgement with her lawyers.

Wilson was seeking $7 million after she successfully sued the Woman's Day publisher over eight articles, which she described in court earlier this year as a "malicious, deliberate take-down" of her.

The court today heard Wilson had offered to settle before trial for $200,000.

But in awarding the damages, Justice John Dixon described the extent of the defamation as "unprecedented in this country" because of the articles' global reach.

"At trial and in the full media glare, Bauer Media tried to characterise its articles as true, or as trivial, or as not likely to be taken seriously," he said.

The actress had sought $5.89 million in special damages and $1.2 million in general damages.

"We've tried to contact her but haven't heard back yet, but I'm sure she'll be absolutely thrilled when she hears today's verdict," Mr Leder said.

"The decision by Justice Dixon clearly provides her with enormous vindication, which comes on top of the tremendous vindication that the jury verdict delivered to her. She's going to be absolutely thrilled."

The damages awarded included $650,000 in general damages and $3,917,472 in special damages for opportunities lost. Bauer will also have to pay the court costs.

Mr Leder said Wilson would also be seeking the full costs she incurred in running the case.

'A message to the tabloid media'

Justice Dixon strongly criticised Bauer Media for failing to properly investigate the claims about Wilson, and for publishing them despite knowing they were false.

"The information was based on a source who required payment and anonymity and whom the editor considered had an axe to grind," he said.

"They repeated the offending allegations when they knew or foresaw that their defamatory slurs would be repeated in the entertainment and celebrity media."

He said the continued publication of articles on Ms Wilson's past was motivated by the pursuit of profit.

"Their conduct was orchestrated, it was a campaign designed to cast a slur on Ms Wilson, that would attract interest," he said.

"Bauer Media published to advance it own corporate interests, to improve its circulation, or increase views, hits, in the expectation of high profits.

"It kept the story alive for days. Bauer Media appreciated the risk of reputational damage to the plaintiff and did not care whether Ms Wilson suffered it as it pursued its own corporate objective."

Bauer Media said in a statement that it was "considering the judgement".

"Bauer Media has a long history of delivering great stories to our readers and we have a reputation for developing some of the best editorial teams in the country," general counsel Adrian Goss said on behalf of the company.

"This is what we are focused on."

Mr Leder said Justice Dixon's words and the significant payment would serve as a "message to the tabloid media" not to operate in the same manner.

In June, Wilson promised to donate any payout to charities or local causes.

"Any dollars I receive will go to charity, scholarships or invested into the Aussie film industry to provide jobs," Wilson tweeted at the time.

"I take being a role model very seriously."

Damages payments for non-economic losses in Victorian defamation cases, such as for emotional suffering, are capped at $389,500. But "special damages", including loss of earnings, are uncapped.

The actress returned to Melbourne in May to give evidence over six days during the three-week trial.

At the time, she told the court she decided to sue to "stand up" for herself and her family, after the articles claimed she had lied publicly about her age, real name and upbringing.

"Even though it's going to be harrowing to come into the court … I felt like I have to … I'm the one to do it," she said.

"I have enough money, I have the courage to come and do it and this magazine company gets away with so much and not everyone has the strength to stand up for themselves."

'Shocked and blindsided'

In evidence which ranged from emotional to comedic, the 37-year-old actress told stories about her upbringing as a Sydney "bogan", including as a junior dog handler and the family's belief that they were related to Walt Disney.

"It's just something I've always known, like knowing who your parents are," she told the court under cross examination.

"My Nana had a family tree done.

"I believe the purpose of why she did it was to see whether us, her grandchildren, were entitled to any royalties."

During the trial, she became upset as she spoke about the impact the articles had on her personal and professional career.

She told the court the articles caused her to be fired from the movies Trolls and Kung Fu Panda 3 because she was "too divisive".

"I was just absolutely shocked and blindsided … I didn't even know what to say, I was just extremely embarrassed," she said.

"The director and producers had said they'd loved my improvisation so much that it reminded them of when Robin Williams recorded.

"I believe Mr Katzenberg was referring to the negative press — that's the only thing I can think of."

Another of Wilson's lawyers, Matthew Collins QC, told the trial that Wilson could have made up to $18 million from a number of film roles if the articles had not damaged her career, and the amount sought was "conservative".


The price of defame: Rebel Wilson wants $7.093m for lost earnings, court told

Rebel Wilson should receive more than $7 million in damages for a series of defamatory articles that branded her a serial liar and caused her to miss film roles, her lawyers say.

The "extremely conservative" figure was submitted by her defence team following the star's defamation win last week against gossip magazine publisher Bauer Media.

Ms Wilson's barrister Matt Collins QC told the Victorian Supreme Court she should receive $5.893 million in special damages – which would cover the loss of one film role – and general damages of $1.2 million, bringing total damages sought to $7.093 million.

"There's certainly a degree of art and a degree of guesswork involved," Dr Collins said during closing submissions on Wednesday.

Hollywood agent and producer Peter Principato – a 20-year industry veteran with 50 clients – said Ms Wilson was the hottest name being tossed around after the success of her film Pitch Perfect 2.

"Rebel was one of those actors that every studio was ... trying to find projects for," he told the court via videolink.

Mr Principato said Ms Wilson could have commanded $US5 million to $US6 million ($6.6 million - $7.9 million) a film, plus box office bonuses, following the film's success.

That was double the estimated $US2 million to $US3 million fellow comic actor Amy Schumer could command at that time, he added.

Besides roles in the films Snatched, starring Schumer, and Bad Moms – which Ms Wilson rejected – Mr Principato said Ms Wilson was also suitable to star in Ghostbusters.

But despite Ms Wilson's "strong female comedic voice", for some reason her fame stopped after the movie.

"Ms Wilson was no longer on everyone's lips in the industry," Mr Principato said in a report to the court.

"She was submitted for many projects for which she was not hired."

Bauer Media – the publisher of Woman's DayAustralian Women's WeeklyNW and OK magazine – was found to have defamed Ms Wilson in eight articles in May 2015 by claiming she was a serial liar about her real name, age and childhood in order to make it in Hollywood.

Mr Principato said he did not know any reason – aside from the Bauer articles – why Ms Wilson would not have received at least two to three offers per year after Pitch Perfect 2.

"It is my opinion that Bauer's publications resulted in a decrease of Ms Wilson's acting work," he said.

Ms Wilson's counsel said the "calculated" and "baseless" attack on the actor was devastating for her, and Bauer media had refused to correct the record or apologise.

Justice John Dixon said he would not deliver judgment before July 1.

Closing submissions continue on Thursday.


Rebel Wilson fights for lost earnings cash in court

HOLLYWOOD star Rebel Wilson will make her bid to get millions in lost earnings after winning her defamation case against a gossip magazine publisher.

Last week Wilson, 37, won her case against Bauer Media — the publisher of Woman’s DayAustralian Women’s WeeklyNW and OK magazine.

The publisher was found to have defamed her in eight articles in May 2015 by claiming she was a serial liar about her real name, age and childhood to make it in Hollywood.

Submissions on how much money the actor should receive start today. Her lawyers will argue she’s owed millions because she lost roles in Kung Fu Panda 3 and Trolls after the series of defamatory articles were published.

It’s understood Wilson will apply for special damages and will use Hollywood agent and producer Peter Principato to provide expert evidence regarding her claimed losses.


'I had to take a stand': Rebel Wilson set for big payday after defamation win

Hollywood star Rebel Wilson could potentially be paid out millions of dollars after a jury sided with her in a defamation trial against the publisher of Woman's Day.

An all-female six-person jury deliberated for two days over their verdict, in which they were asked to consider 40 questions about eight potentially defamatory magazine articles, before handing down their decision on Thursday afternoon.

The 37-year-old Pitch Perfect star was defamed by Bauer Media, publisher of Woman's Day, when they accused her of lying about her real name, age and childhood, the jury found.

The jury found that all eight articles made out that Wilson was a serial liar, that each article was substantially untrue, and that Wilson suffered serious harm because of their publication.

Justice John Dixon will now consider the degree of impact the defamation had on Wilson's career and rule on just how much she is awarded in damages.

In Victoria, damages for non-economic loss – pain and suffering – in a defamation suit are capped at nearly $400,000.

But special damages, including damages for loss of earnings, are uncapped.

Ms Wilson has claimed the defamatory articles led her to miss out on several lead roles, as well as being sacked from two films during production. 

Lead roles in major Hollywood productions could be worth tens of millions of dollars, celebrity publicist Max Markson told Fairfax.

"She's up there with people like Tina Fey, Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore," Markson said.

"Once you start headlining a movie it's not unusual to get $5 or $10 million per movie. 

"The sort of money they are earning, annually, is tens of millions of dollars."

Ms Wilson appeared at every day of the three-week hearing, but nearly missed the jury's verdict after her car became stuck in traffic on the way to the courthouse. She eventually arrived mid-way through.

In the course of the the hearing Ms Wilson told the court she had been sacked from the films Kung Fu Panda 3 and Trolls in the wake of the articles.

But Bauer's lawyers unearthed documents that they said showed she may have been fired from Trolls before the articles were published.

Bauer claims no one would have thought less of Ms Wilson because of the articles the company's magazines published – and, regardless, they were largely true. That claim was comprehensively rejected by the jury.

Ms Wilson claimed she allowed mystery to swirl about her age – beneficial to her career, as she was often cast in roles much younger than she was – but said she never lied about it.

Speaking outside court Ms Wilson said the "unanimous" verdict has sent a huge message to magazine publishers and celebrity journalists.

"I was confident from the start," She said.

"This has definitely been a long and very hard fight. But I felt like I had to take a stand against a bully.

"Their conduct can only be described as disgraceful.

"I look forward to rebuilding my career. I am grateful it's all over."

"It's a win for everybody who gets maliciously taken down.

"You guys have probably heard of tall poppy syndrome. This happened to me. I didn't deserve it"

Ms Wilson says she will go out to dinner to celebrate the win.

She also revealed she had played tennis with Todd Woodbridge to ease the stress as she waited for the jury to return its verdict.

Bizarre moments

The all-singing, all-dancing trial was marked by a series of bizarre moments, including:

  • Revelations Ms Wilson was a member of a secret celebrity-only Disneyland club
  • Ms Wilson's mother insisting under cross-examination her family were bogans
  • Ms Wilson tried to get Fairfax Media, publisher of The Age, to remove a photo that showed her "fang tooth"
  • Ms Wilson being cross-examined over her belief she was related by marriage to Walt Disney

Just who is the real Rebel?

The first article published by Woman's Day, headlined 'Just who is the REAL Rebel?', claimed Ms Wilson's real name was Melanie Elizabeth Bownds and she was aged 36, not 29.

The article was based of a source cultivated by former Woman's Day journalist Shari Nementzik through Facebook.

The magazine paid the source just $2000 for the information.

Ms Nementzik was called to testify, and told the jury everyone knew that celebrity magazines used "chequebook journalism" to land scoops.

Ms Wilson told the court she strongly suspected who the source was: a former high-school classmate who had become jealous and obsessed with Ms Wilson's rise to fame.

The Giant Vanishing Pimple

Ms Wilson claimed the articles caused her so much stress and anxiety that she developed eczema and a huge sore between her nose and lip which she described as "exploding" and "oozing".

The sore was so big special effects teams on the movie she was filming, How To Be Single, couldn't work out how to remove it. Instead, she was cut from several scenes, she claimed.

But Bauer Media's barrister Georgina Schoff QC tendered a tweet, sent by Wilson days after the article was published.

Schoff: "Do you agree, Ms Wilson, that when you look at yourself in that photo you've got absolutely flawless skin?

Wilson: "Thank you for the nice compliment." (General laughter in the courtroom.)

Schoff: "The point is, Ms Wilson, there is no stress sore in that photograph."

Wilson: "You can't see anything hugely obvious in that photo, no."

Wilson, Wilson and Wilson

In a trial that became increasingly surreal, nothing was stranger than the tale of the three Wilsons.

While Rebel was suing Bauer, one of Bauer's employees, Elizabeth Wilson, was also suing her for defamation.

In February 2016 Rebel was told a journalist working for Bauer with the name Elizabeth Wilson had been harassing her grandmother for "dirt", she told the court.

Incensed, Rebel took to Twitter to attack her namesake.

Unfortunately there were two Elizabeth Wilsons working for Bauer, and Rebel had the wrong Wilson – this one worked for House & Garden magazine.

Rebel told the court Ms Wilson was demanding $250,000 in compensation for the inaccurate tweet, a tactic she labelled a "shakedown".

Rebel Wilson wins defamation case against 'bully' magazine publisher Bauer Media

Rebel Wilson has won her defamation case against magazine publisher Bauer Media over a series of articles the Hollywood actress claimed damaged her career by depicting her as a serial liar.

In an at-times bizarre Victorian Supreme Court trial, the 37-year-old Australian sued over eight articles which appeared in Woman's Day, Women's Weekly, OK Magazine and New Weekly in 2015.

The articles said Wilson had publicly lied about her age, real name and upbringing, and alleged she had added a "touch of Hollywood" to her backstory.

She returned to Melbourne from Los Angeles to give evidence at the three-week trial in which she made jokes, rapped an Academy Award acceptance speech she claims to have hallucinated years earlier, and broke down in tears several times.

Outside the court, Wilson said it had been a long, hard fight but she felt she had to take a stand.

"I had to stand up to a bully, a huge media organisation, Bauer Media Group, who maliciously took me down in 2015 with a series of grubby and completely false articles," she said.

"Far too often I feel the tabloid magazines and the journalists who work for them don't abide by professional ethics. Far too often I feel their conduct can only be described as disgusting and disgraceful.

"I'm glad, very glad, that the jury has agreed with me and by their unanimous overwhelming verdict they have sent a very, very clear message."

Justice John Dixon is now tasked with assessing the amount of damages to award the actress.

"The reason I'm here is not for damages. It's to clear my name," Wilson said.

"To me it's not about the number. To me, I was hoping the jury would do the right thing and send a message to these tabloids and they've done that.

"So for me it's over in my mind in that respect."

Wilson to rebuild career, starting with Hemsworth brother

A number of fans were on hand to support Wilson, who took selfies with them afterwards.

Wilson got stuck in traffic on the way to the court and almost missed the verdict.

"I've been waiting four weeks for this, I need to get here and unfortunately I think school was coming out at that time and we were stuck in traffic," she said.

"But I kind of bolted in as soon as I got here and luckily at least heard one lot of all of the questions being answered."

She said she hoped to start to rebuild her career and has plans to do a movie in New York with Australian actor Liam Hemsworth.

"When I've been feeling really down about the stress of this court case, I've just been thinking about pashing Liam and how good that's going to be," she joked.

In a statement, Bauer Media said it would consider its options following the verdict. The company said it had no further comment at this time.

The jury was shown childhood photos of the actress in a bid to prove her stories were true, including a young Wilson competing as a junior handler at dog shows, in a cage with a lion and in a South African hospital recovering from malaria.

The actress told the trial the articles were a "malicious, deliberate take-down" published to coincide with the release of her biggest movie role to date and designed to sell as many copies as possible.

She alleged they resulted in her being sacked from DreamWorks animated feature films Trolls and Kung Fu Panda 3 for being "too divisive", and she subsequently had to beg to work for free.

"After month after month, that all of a sudden doors that used to be open were shut and I basically had to beg to get back in the door … it became apparent that … [the articles] did a tremendous amount of damage," she told the jury.

But Bauer Media denied the articles had damaged Wilson's reputation and argued that, in any case, they were based in fact.

Woman's Day journalist denies 'hatchet job'

Woman's Day was the first of the publisher's magazines to allege Wilson had lied publicly about aspects of her life, including her age and real name.

One of the magazine's former journalists, Shari Nementzik, denied doing a "hatchet job" on the actress's reputation.

She said she had based the article on a source who had commented on the magazine's website in 2012, claiming she had gone to high school with the actress and "what a lier [sic] she has become!!"

The identity of the source, who was paid $2,000, was not revealed to the court.

Nementzik told the court she did not think her source was "completely unreliable", and denied publishing information she knew was false.

She also denied breaching the code of ethics by leaving out relevant facts and not giving Wilson an opportunity to respond.

Wilson told the jury she believed the source was a disgruntled former classmate who was jealous of her success.

But Nementzik denied the article was a mean story from a source "with an axe to grind".


US web giant spurns Australian court order to pull leaked Amber Harrison letters

The US owners of hugely popular blogging platform WordPress.com are defying an Australian court and refusing to pull down leaked documents related to Amber Harrison, the sacked former lover of Seven West Media boss Tim Worner.

It was revealed in the Federal Court on Friday that San Francisco-based Automattic Inc had advised Ms Harrison's legal team it would not be removing an anonymously posted blog containing confidential correspondence.

"They have indicated to us that they will not respond unless there is compliance with United States law, which essentially requires my client to take Your Honour's order and authenticate it in the courts of California," a lawyer for Ms Harrison told the court.

The blog post, titled, "BREAKING: Amber Harrison's struggle with greedy lawyers", contains two confidential legal letters addressed to Ms Harrison from June last year.

Justice Tony North made orders last month for the blog site to remove the leaked letters. It is not known who was behind the leak.

Friday's hearing was the latest development in the high-profile and highly public legal stoush between Ms Harrison, 39, and Seven West Media since she went public with the details of her 18-month affair with Mr Worner, the TV network's chief executive.

She has lodged a Fair Work claim, alleging Seven violated her workplace rights.

Justice North on Friday said it was "highly interesting" that the US company was refusing to comply with Australian laws. 

"It means ... Australia is right at the periphery as far as its courts are concerned, and enforcement of its laws," he said.

"I wonder if we have the same attitude towards American laws?" 

The case raises important questions about the power of Australian courts when dealing with digital tech giants who have worldwide reach.

"It's an illustration," Justice North said, "of how the legal world is slowly lurching itself into the digital age."

Ms Harrison remains under a temporary gag order preventing her from speaking publicly about the company or the relationship with Mr Worner.

The case was adjourned until July.


Rebel Wilson defamation case: Obsessed ex-classmate was articles' source: star

An obsessed and jealous former high-school classmate is the unnamed source behind articles claiming Rebel Wilson lied about her name, age and background, the actress believes.

In what is already becoming one of the stranger trials in Victoria's history, Wilson, star of Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect, is suing publisher Bauer Media for defamation over a series of articles that appeared in Woman's Day in May 2015.

She claims the articles gave the impression she was a serial liar who has falsified much of her back-story, including her name and age.

The articles quoted an unnamed source claiming that Wilson's whole life was fabricated.

"All the girls in my grade had been telling me that there was a girl who had become obsessed with my success," Wilson told the Supreme Court of Victoria on Tuesday. "She'd contacted basically every single person in the Australian media [trying to sell her story]."

Wilson said she had been told the classmate worked herself into a fury whenever she saw Rebel's face on billboards advertising her successful movies.

Claims the woman made to Woman's Day were all wrong, and could be easily debunked with a quick internet search, Wilson said.

Worse, the source had told the magazine the comedian wasn't funny at high school. "[I] cracked jokes all the time ... everyone knew me for cracking jokes," Wilson said.

She claims she was deeply wounded and humiliated by the articles, and they did enormous damage to her career. She plans to sit through every minute of the three-week defamation trial, which is rapidly coming to resemble an all-singing, all-dancing variety hour rather than a court case.

The hearing has already been interspersed with quips from Wilson and clips from her movies, including a memorable a capella performance of Ace of Base's I Saw The Sign.

On Tuesday, she took to the stand, the first witness to give evidence. She claimed she really was a bogan, despite Woman's Day's claim she had a privileged upbringing.

"Although now I'd probably be a cashed-up bogan," she admitted. To which Justice John Dixon quipped from the bench "that's called a CUB".

She was born Melanie, but always known as Rebel, she said. Her siblings are named Annachi and Ryot. In 2002, she legally changed her first name to Rebel. Her birthdate was on her passport and birth certificate, both of which were tendered to the court.

Wilson then led the six-woman jury and packed courtroom through her life story, flipping through an evidence-binder of yellowing Kodachrome images. Here was young Rebel Wilson in a white dress. Rebel Wilson at a dog show. Several photos of Rebel Wilson engaged in something she termed "dog-stacking", apparently a dog-show standard.

Wilson let none of her life story pass without comment, from her interests in boys, to her terrible sense of humour and bad fashion sense. 

She was rejected from the National Institute of Dramatic Arts because her characteristic voice "was no good for Shakespeare".

"I'm not a professional rapper," she was moved to note at another point, after retelling a story involving hallucinating rap-performances.

A full episode of Julia Zemiro's Home Delivery starring Wilson was played. The jury watched Wilson watching herself on the wide-screen television mounted in court.

"I still think I'm growing into my looks – I was pretty feral as a child," TV-Rebel said and the court tittered. Real Rebel worked to suppress her own grin.

Wilson says the articles gutted her career, which was just starting to bloom. In the two years since the articles were published, she has had only two roles – one a cameo in the Absolutely Fabulous movie, which she did as a favour, and a stage role in London.

If she was still a successful actor, "I would not be here... I have no current job," she said.

The case continues.


Rebel Wilson appears in court ahead of Bauer Media defamation trial

Hollywood actress Rebel Wilson has appeared at the Supreme Court in Melbourne ahead of her defamation trial against magazine publishing house Bauer Media. 

The Bridesmaids star attended the directions hearing in person on Friday, flanked by lawyers and a family member. 

She has taken time out from movie commitments to fly from the United States for the trial, which is due to begin on Monday. 

Wilson is suing Bauer Media, the publisher of Women's WeeklyWomans Day and OK! magazines. She claims articles published in the women's magazines damaged her reputation as a fair and honest person. 

The articles suggested Wilson was a "serial liar" who invented fantastic stories in order to make it in Hollywood, according to court documents. In particular, the articles suggested Wilson told journalists she was 29-years-old when she was in fact 35. 

Wilson's legal team will argue their client missed out on lucrative roles after the articles were published, including Dreamworks' Kung Fu Panda III

The Pitch Perfect star's financial records are expected to be made public during the trial as evidence of her lost earnings. An episode of Julia Zemiro's Home Delivery will also be tendered to the court. 

During the directions hearing, Bauer Media's barrister, Georgina Schoff QC, argued the articles were simply trying to "set the record straight". Witnesses from the US and U.K. are expected to appear by videolink. 

The full trial will begin on Monday, May 22 with Wilson confirming she would be in attendance for the whole trial. 

Outside court she said she had cancelled auditions to be in Melbourne. 

"It's so good to be here," she said. "I'm going to have a good weekend before the trial starts on Monday. It's just important the truth is out there."


Facebook user is found guilty of defamation for 'liking' posts

Zurich: A Facebook user who 'liked' a post accusing another man of anti-Semitism and racism has been convicted of defamation in a landmark ruling.

In the first case of its kind in Switzerland, the 45-year-old unnamed man from Zurich was found guilty after he pressed the 'like' button on several posts attacking Erwin Kessler, the president of an animal rights group.

The posts came about during discussions on the social media website over which animal welfare groups should be allowed to take part in a large vegan street festival, Veganmania Schweiz.

Posts describing Kessler as racist, anti-Semitic or fascist, and his organisation as a neo-Nazi group, were 'liked' by a number of people, including the defendant.

Mr Kessler then brought a case against the defendant, arguing that by 'liking' the posts the man had spread their content by making them visible to a larger number of people.

Judge Catherine Gerwig said at the trial in Zurich on Monday that 'liking' the posts was "spreading a value judgement", reported newspaper Tages Anzeiger.

She said a 'like' was associated with a positive, meaning he clearly supported the posts' content.

The court ruled that the defendant could not prove that the statements about Mr Kessler were true or that he had "serious reasons" to believe them to be so. In 1998, Mr Kessler was in fact convicted of racial discrimination in relation to his efforts to prevent the lifting of a ban on shechita, a Jewish religious method of slaughtering animals.

However, the court ruled that it did not mean he could be accused of racism without proof 19 years later, and the defendant received a suspended fine. Other people have also since been convicted of defaming Mr Kessler in the Swiss cities of Zurich, Lucerne and Bern, according to the Tages Anzeiger.

Media lawyer Martin Steiger said the conviction should not be taken to mean that from now on, anyone 'liking' posts may be at risk of being prosecuted for defamation.

"It always depends on what a 'like' means and what someone was aiming to achieve with it," he told the newspaper. "A 'like' doesn't always mean that someone likes the content of a post. If, for instance, there's an accident, then it also means expressing sympathy.

"Or that you find it good that someone shares something on Facebook."

Mr Steiger said that the introduction of a wider variety of ways to react to a Facebook post - 'sad', 'wow' and 'angry' faces - did not change the inherent ambiguity of what someone meant to say with them.

"It's often unclear which option is suitable," he said.

The defendant in this case had said in court that he supported the content. The conviction was therefore "not necessarily unjustified", said Mr Steiger.


Dentist sues patient for defamation over online review

A prominent Melbourne dentist has taken defamation action against a patient who posted a scathing online review after claiming he was quoted $1200 for a filling that would take only 45 minutes.

Carlton resident Mark Robert Bradbury gave Smile Solutions a one-star rating on the practice's Google listing page before launching a personal attack on the business' owner and director, Kia Pajouhesh.

Kia Pajouhesh, managing director of dentistry Smile Solutions. Photo: Arsineh Houspian 

"The greedy owner drives a Bentley and brags about his private box at the footy ... yet his motto is 'we see things from the patient's perspective'. Hmm ... the only thing this lot see is the size of your wallet," wrote Mr Bradbury, according to a Supreme Court writ.

Based in the Manchester Unity building in Collins Street, Smile Solutions was founded by Dr Pajouhesh 24 years ago and has become one of the nations's largest private dental practices, with almost 50 dentists, specialists and hygienists. 



Three WA businessmen have won a record $700,000 in damages against a blogger and former private detective who published defamatory claims accusing them of standover tactics and corporate theft.

Supreme Court judge Kenneth Martin used the long-running case to warn that people were wrong to assume the laws of defamation did not apply to the Internet.

Justice Martin said Terry John McLernon appeared to see himself as “some sort of self-appointed Internet crusader” who had the right to expose the men’s alleged misdeeds while dispensing “liberal amounts of poison”.

Two of the businessmen, Anton Billis ― head of $350 million gold miner Tribune Resources ―and one-time payday lender Oliver Douglas, were each awarded $250,000 in damages, believed to be the biggest defamation awards made in WA.

A third, former company director Paul Matich, was awarded $200,000.

While acknowledging that Mr McLernon, a two-time bankrupt, was unlikely to have the means to pay the men, Justice Martin said the damages needed to be at the high end of the scale to reflect the significant reputational damage and personal distress they had suffered.

He also suggested his orders, which include a permanent ban on Mr McLernon publishing any further claims against the men, should be a warning to those who still mistakenly believed that defamation laws did not apply to the Internet.

“There is a lingering misapprehension that anything at all can be posted concerning another person over the Internet, no matter how defamatory or scandalous, and that the posted material will enjoy a complete immunity,” Justice Martin said.

Mr Douglas, Mr Billis and Mr Matich sued Mr McLernon in linked actions in 2012 over material posted on three websites he operated, mclernonfile.com, blackdogsbarking.com and herdontheterrace.com.

Amongst other postings, the websites claimed or implied the men were members of an organised criminal gang, the Fat Wallet Mob, had threatened government officers, stolen company funds for their own use and knowingly associated with a corrupt police officer.


$150,000 Facebook post that destroyed a former deputy principal's life

Before the Facebook post, former deputy principal Kenneth Rothe, 74, enjoyed his life running two small seaside motels with his wife and caring for his grandchildren.

Afterwards, Mr Rothe was the subject of a brutal bashing that left him hospitalised for six months and his family were so scared they moved interstate.

Now a NSW District Court judge has forced the man who wrote the defamatory Facebook post to pay $150,000 in damages.



Herald Sun' to pay strip club boss $250,000 in damages over brothel madam claims

The owner of a strip club in Shepparton has been awarded $250,000 in damages after suing the Herald Sun for defamation over claims she was a brothel madam.

Raelene Hardie, the owner of Club Rawhide sued the Herald and Weekly Times (publisher of the Herald Sun) and associate editor Andrew Rule, over a May 2013 report headed, "Secret Tip-offs. Country cops suspected of sabotaging bikie raids".


Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/heraldsun-to-pay-strip-club-250000-in-damages-over-brothel-madam-claims-20160513-gou7od.html#ixzz48mJsdAMs 
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Facebook user wins defamation battle over unflattering post

A woman who called an accountant "unprofessional, rude and obnoxious" in a Facebook review has won out in a defamation case, using the rarely-successful defence of honest opinion.

As reviews of businesses take off on social media, the District Court of Western Australia was asked to consider whether a series of posts on a Facebook page for UK emigrants, "Poms in Perth", had defamed a local accountant.

Stephanie Massey posted an unflattering review of Joondalup accountant Barry McEloney in August last year, telling users "whatever you do, DO NOT use" him to advise on tax returns.

"That clown wanted $550 ... antagonised my boyfriend and hung up on me, interrupting me several times prior. DEFO not worth $550 in my eyes," she said in a second post on the members-only page....

...Judge Schoombee said readers would appreciate comments made on a Facebook page were not the same as those on the front page of a newspaper, and users "often write in half sentences, with abbreviations, keep their comments brief and use colloquial language".

Comments made could be "a bit one-sided or exaggerated" but readers would approach reviews "with appropriate caution and a bit of scepticism".

"The ordinary reasonable reader would also realise that what one person might regard as 'overcharging' might be a reasonable fee to another to whom a meticulous service or a reliable service provider was important," she said.

But Judge Schoombee added that "this does not mean that a member of a Facebook page has carte blanche to defame service providers or other persons or that all statements made necessarily qualify as opinions".

In a separate case in Victoria, the Supreme Court considered whether an administrator of a Facebook page could be liable for comments posted by another user. Justice John Dixon said that the administrator could be liable as a secondary publisher as they had the power to remove the comments. Associate Professor Rolph said the case applied long-established principles.

"Virtual walls are just like physical walls. If you are responsible for a piece of property and someone puts something defamatory on it, someone tells you about it and you have the power to take it down and don't do it, the law has always been that you become responsible for it yourself," he said.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/national/facebook-user-who-posted-unflattering-review-of-accountant-wins-defamation-battle-20151102-gkp8xq.html#ixzz3qPxUolCW 
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Facebook and defamation: When a post costs you dearly

BE CAREFUL what you post.

That’s the lesson a leading law firm, and a climbing number of its clients, have learnt as social media posts have now contributed to almost half its of defamation inquiries.

Former Orange High School student Andrew Farley was one of those Facebook users caught up in a defamation case.

The 20-year-old had a grudge against one of his former teachers. It was to do with his father, also a teacher who had left the NSW school.

Like an increasing number of Australians, Mr Farley might have naively thought his Facebook and Twitter profiles would be a safe place to air his grievances about the music teacher, Christine Mickle.

What he had posted, a judge decided, was “false allegations” about the 58-year-old, and the effect on her “was devastating”, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Mr Farley was forced to pay Ms Mickle $105,000 in damages in what is believed to be Australia’s first Twitter defamation case to go to trial.


Source: http://www.news.com.au/technology/online/facebook-and-defamation-when-a-post-costs-you-dearly/story-fnjwnhzf-1227498531873