Geoffrey Rush: Sydney newspaper loses appeal over defamation payout

Australia – An Australian newspaper has lost its appeal against a record defamation payout awarded to actor Geoffrey Rush’

Rush was awarded A$2.9m (US$1.99M) last April after winning a case against Nationwide News, a publisher owner by Rupert Murdoch.

Its newspaper, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, had run stories accusing Ruh of behaving inappropriately towards a former theatre co-star.

The publisher lost its appeal against the judgement and the size of the payout. Lawyers for the publisher had argued the payout – the largest ever awarded to a single person in Australia – was “manifestly excessive”.

Three federal judges, however, ruled the sum was “appropriate high” given the “extremely serious” allegations and the harm caused to Rush’s reputation.

The original front page story carried the headline “King Leer” and detailed accusations from 2015 Sydney Theatre Company production of King Leer.

The story alleged Rush acted inappropriately towards a co-star, later revealed to be actress Eryn Jean Norvill.

The Federal Court agreed with the original trial judge’s assessment that Norvill – who gave evidence for the newspaper at the trial – was an unreliable witness and “prone to exaggeration”.

In doing so, the court rejected that the publisher’s arguments that the story should be exempt from a defamation finding because the allegations were “substantially true”.

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