Decision on Geoffrey Rush defamation appeal expected
Three judges are set to rule on an appeal by Nationwide News against a finding it defamed Geoffrey Rush and against the awarding of $2.9 million in damages.
The Daily Telegraph’s publisher and journalist Jonathon Moran were found to have been reckless regarding the truth when they reported Rush had been accused of inappropriate behaviour during a Sydney theatre production of King Lear in 2015.
In the Federal Court in 2019, Justice Michael Wigney ruled a poster and two articles contained several defamatory meanings - including that Rush was a pervert and a sexual predator - and the publisher hadn’t proved they were true.
Rush was awarded $850,000 general damages and approximately $2 million in special damages to cover past and future economic loss.
Justices Richard White, Jacqueline Gleeson and Michael Wheelahan heard the publisher’s appeal in November and will hand down their decision on Thursday.
The appeal grounds included questioning Justice Wigney’s findings about Rush’s former co-star, Eryn Jean Norvill, who alleged he sexually harassed her.
The judge found the emerging actor was not a reliable witness.
In relation to the $2 million special damages award, Nationwide said the judge heard no express evidence the actor was unable to work and had fewer job offers as a result of the publications.
But the actor’s barrister submitted the judge was “well and truly justified” in concluding Rush was unable to work following the defamatory publications.
Rush himself testified as to the devastating effects the publications had on his mental state while other evidence supported conclusions he was unable to work and had fewer job offers.
Nationwide sought a retrial with a different judge or a re-assessment of the actor’s damages.