REBEL Wilson has just been awarded Australia's highest-ever defamation payout, after successfully suing Bauer Media over a series of defamatory articles.

In a stunning decision, a Supreme Court judge claimed the extent of Wilson's defamation was "unprecedented" and warranted substantial damages - to the tune of more than $4.5 million - after the jury found articles published in Woman's Day, Australian Women's Weekly, New Weekly and OK! unfairly painted her as a serial liar who'd faked her way to Hollywood.

It's a huge financial blow to Bauer - especially considering lawyers for the Pitch Perfect star claim that before the trial, she had offered to settle for $200,000.

But now they're paying more than twenty times that sum in an extraordinary Australian legal first. Why?

According to Peter Coggins from Shine Lawyers, it all comes down to Wilson's celebrity status.

"We haven't really had such a high-profile candidate run a defamation claim all the way to a trial like this - traditionally in Australia, defamation awards have been quite low, or often they're settled out of court," he explained.

"This case had a high-profile plaintiff - and it had a defendant in Bauer Media that really dug its heels in right until the very end - they took the risk and came out on the wrong side."

In the judge's ruling, it was pointed out that Bauer Media had deliberately capitalised on the much-hyped release of Pitch Perfect 2.

"They were essentially riding on the back of her success, and the frenzy that was with that movie then extended to these articles.

"The judge made a lot of comment about that - particularly in terms of their maliciousness."

While Wilson had originally said she'd missed out on specific roles (Trolls and Kung Fu Panda) as a result of the defamation, she walked away from that claim before the trial and developed a "trajectory" argument - meaning she figured out how much work she'd lost based on how her career had been tracking before it nosedived.

"Her career was going up and up, and she got to Pitch Perfect 2, and then after that she expected she'd get roles that would pay her in the range of $5-6 million," Coggins said.

"But they didn't come in, and she was able to convince the judge that that was tied to those defamatory articles."

He added: "It's a very difficult threshold for the plaintiff to draw those links between the publication and the career."

Another factor that worked against Bauer Media was the judge's rejection of its claim that what was published in their Australian magazines would have had no bearing on her US-based career.

"The judge rejected that, word got out about this in the United States, and they were published on the internet so word did get out over there," Coggins said.

So what impact will this have on future celebrity defamation cases?

"It will probably set a precedent for more high-profile cases settling out of court, because most major publishers will not want to go down this road ... they will want to settle."

The actor has previously claimed any money awarded by the court would be donated to charity or the Australian film industry.

News Corp Australia

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