Actress Rebel Wilson has been ordered to hand back more than $4.1 million of the damages originally awarded to her in defamation proceedings against Bauer Media after the Victorian Court of Appeal overturned her record defamation payout last month.

Timeline of damages sums

In September 2017 the Supreme Court of Victoria awarded Ms Wilson $4,567,472 consisting of:

  • $650,000 in general damages for non-economic loss, including aggravated damages
  • $3,917,472 in special damages for economic loss (collectively, the damages sum).

The defendants, Bauer Media Pty Ltd and Bauer Media Australia Pty Ltd (collectively Bauer), were ordered to pay interest on the damages sum in the amount of $182,448.61. This amounted to a total damages award of $4,749,920.60 (judgment sum), which Bauer paid to Ms Wilson on 3 October 2017.

Bauer appealed, and on 14 June 2018 the Court of Appeal (the Court) reduced Ms Wilson's damages sum to just $600,000 after finding she was not entitled to any economic losses and that her damages for non-economic loss should be reduced by $50,000. You can read our full summary of this decision here.

The issues of interest and costs

On 27 June 2018 the Court handed down its finding in Bauer Media Pty Ltd v Wilson (No 3) [2018] VSCA 164 on the issues of interest and costs.

The parties agreed that Ms Wilson was entitled to interest on the newly awarded sum of $600,000 in the amount of $27,165.60. The Court was therefore required to determine Bauer's entitlement to the repayment of the part of the judgment sum that was set aside on appeal, and the payment of costs.

Bauer sought the repayment of $4,122,755, being the amount of the judgment sum minus the newly awarded sum of $600,000 and the agreed interest sum of $27,165.60. Ms Wilson did not dispute that this sum should be repaid.

Bauer also sought restitutionary interest at a rate of 2 per cent p.a. Ms Wilson contended that no order regarding restitutionary interest should be made at this stage, and that a rate of no higher than 1.5 per cent should be used when such an order is made. The Court rejected this, and ordered Ms Wilson to repay the sum of $4,122,755 plus interest at the rate of 2 per cent p.a. from the day Bauer paid the judgment sum (3 October 2017) to the day of the order (27 June 2018). Ms Wilson was ordered to pay Bauer $4,183,071.45 in total.

The Court also held that Ms Wilson should have her costs of the proceedings at first instance paid by Bauer on an indemnity basis, but that Ms Wilson should pay 80 per cent of Bauer's costs of the appeal on the standard basis.

This publication does not deal with every important topic or change in law and is not intended to be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader's specific circumstances. If you have found this publication of interest and would like to know more or wish to obtain legal advice relevant to your circumstances please contact one of the named individuals listed.