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News Corp loses appeal over $2.9m Geoffrey Rush defamation


The publisher of a Sydney newspaper has lost its appeal in the high-stakes defamation case of actor Geoffrey Rush, who was awarded a record multimillion-dollar payout last year.

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Nationwide News appealed after the Oscar winner was last year awarded almost $2.9 million in damages over defamatory articles published by The Daily Telegraph in 2017.

The stories alleged Rush behaved inappropriately towards Eryn Jean Norvill, his co-star in the Sydney Theatre Company production of King Lear.

He denied the claims.

The record payout included $850,000 in general and aggravated damages, $1.9 million for past and future economic loss, and $42,000 in interest.

The full Federal Court today dismissed all grounds of the appeal, meaning the awarded damages stand.

Nationwide News challenged the judgement and the awarded damages in an appeal heard in November.

Its legal counsel asked the court to remit the proceedings to a different judge for a fresh trial and to order Rush to pay the costs of the appeal.

A major change to its appeal grounds was the abandonment of a claim the conduct of the original judge, Justice Michael Wigney, gave rise to apprehended bias.

Findings in Justice Wigney’s judgment about the evidence of Norvill and her actor colleagues during the 2018 two-week trial were central to the appeal.

The judge’s description of Norvill as a witness who was “at times, prone to embellishment or exaggeration” was erroneous, according to Nationwide News.


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