Actor Geoffrey Rush wins record US$1.9mn in Daily Telegraph #MeToo defamation case
Actor Geoffrey Rush has received the largest defamation payout to a single plaintiff in Australian history, to the tune of AU$2.9 (US$1.9mn) million in his case against the Daily Telegraph over sexual misconduct allegations.
The newspaper was ordered to pay the Oscar-winning actor just shy of AU$2 million (US$1.3mn) for lost earnings, on top of a previously-awarded AU$850,000 (US$584,234) payout for “personal distress and hurt,” plus interest, over a series of reports by the paper which accused Rush of “inappropriate behaviour” towards a female actor.
Australian Federal Court Justice Michael Wigney ruled in the actor’s favor Thursday for past and future economic loss suffered as a result of the Daily Telegraph’s reports, which amounts to the sum of $1.98 million (US$1.3). Rush reportedly offered to settle the case previously for just $50,000 (US$34,369), plus legal costs and an apology from the newspaper.
Actor Eryn Jean Norvill, who starred in the Sydney Theatre Company’s 2015-16 production of King Lear alongside Rush, testified that he had stroked her breast and hip during a preview performance of the play in 2015. However, Norvill was not mentioned in the Telegraph’s articles, and only agreed to testify late in the trial.
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Justice Wigney found her allegations that Rush had fondled her breast “somewhat implausible and improbable” while decrying the Telegraph for “a recklessly irresponsible piece of sensationalist journalism of … the very worst kind,” according to The Sydney Morning Herald. He also declined to recuse himself from the case despite requests from the Telegraph’s legal team.
The Telegraph’s lawyer Tom Blackburn claimed that Rush and his legal team were “trying to shut down any criticism of the judgment.”
Despite agreeing to pay up, Nationwide News, which own The Daily Telegraph, wants to appeal the judgement and attempt to overturn the court’s decision entirely, possibly in a trial before a new judge.
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