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Actor Geoffrey Rush wins record $2M defamation suit against paper that alleged he harassed a castmate

Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush has been was awarded $2 million in damages in a defamation case against a newspaper publisher and journalist over reports he had been accused of inappropriate behaviour toward an actress.
Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush has been was awarded $2 million in damages in a defamation case against a newspaper publisher and journalist over reports he had been accused of inappropriate behaviour toward an actress.

Geoffrey Rush has won a record $2 million ($1.8 million CAD) in damages over allegations he sexually harassed a female castmate.

The Pirates of the Caribbean star took legal action against Nationwide News, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, and journalist Jonathon Moran, over two Sydney Daily Telegraph articles based on a complaint from actress Eryn Jean Norvill about his behaviour during a 2015 Sydney Theatre Company production of King Lear.

Rush, 67, won his case last month and on Thursday an Australian federal court heard that Rush and the Telegraph’s lawyers had agreed he would receive $1.4 million for lost past and future earnings on top of an existing $587,000 payout.

The award is a record for an individual in Australia, after the $3.1 million handed to the actress Rebel Wilson over claims she lied about her age and background was reduced to $416,000.

According to The Guardian, Rush’s barrister, Sue Chrysanthou, told the court her client had initially offered to settle the case in exchange for an apology and $34,300 plus costs, but the publisher did not respond.

Sydney Daily Telegraph editors ran a front page story, published under the headline “King Leer” in November 2017, which alleged the STC had received an anonymous complaint about the star but provided no further details. The complainant was later revealed as Norvill.

The presiding judge, Justice Michael Wigney found the report and follow-up stories were, “in all the circumstances, a recklessly irresponsible piece of sensationalist journalism of the worst kind,” and estimated his earnings would suffer even after his court win.

News Corp’s lawyers’ are appealing against Wigney’s ruling, claiming his conduct during the case “gave rise to an apprehension of bias”.

They also asked the judge to recuse himself from ruling on an injunction application from Rush’s lawyers preventing the Telegraph republishing allegations made against the actor, a demand he refused.

Both the injunction application and appeal cases are ongoing.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019


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