“Today was the end of a long and hard court battle against Bauer Media, which viciously tried to take me down with a series of false articles,” Wilson wrote on Twitter.
The award - which Justice John Dixon said was based on the estimated amount Wilson lost out on following the success of Pitch Perfect 2 - is four times the amount of the previous Australian record for a defamation case, say her lawyers.
Wilson said on social media, “to me, though, this case wasn’t about the money,” and she plans to support charities and the country’s film industry with her damages.
“It was important for me to set the record straight, especially because I have so many young fans,” she posted on Instagram. “I also feel like it’s important to stand up to bullies.”
Bauer publishes Women’s Day, Australian Women’s Weekly, NW and OK, with story lines that get picked up by US entertainment industry outlets.
Dixon ruled “only a substantial sum in damages could convince the public” that Wilson isn’t dishonest and “bring home the gravity” the damage to her reputation caused.
“In the full media glare, Bauer Media’s defence of this case attempted to characterise its articles as true or as trivial or not likely to be taken seriously,” Dixon said in his ruling.
“Unless substantial damages are awarded there is a real risk that the public will not be convinced of the seriousness of the defamation, but will rather wrongly conclude that the articles were trivial or not that serious.”
Dixon also said Bauer knowingly published false statements about Wilson in Women’s Day; that the allegations in the story were from “a source who required payment and anonymity and whom the editor considered ‘had an axe to grind’”; and the coverage was orchestrated to coincide with the release of Pitch Perfect 2 to maximise the company’s profits.
The record sum may affect future cases in Australia, but the ruling’s impact may not extend beyond its borders. For instance, defamation laws in Australia are stricter than in the US.