Geoffrey Rush is set to receive the largest ever damages payout to a single person in Australia’s history following a defamation case against a newspaper publisher and journalist.
The judge awarded Rush 2.9m Australian dollars (£1.5m) on Thursday, up from the original amount of 484,000 Australian dollars (£263,000), after taking the actor’s loss of earnings into consideration.
In the case, Oscar-winning Rush successfully sued Australia’s Nationwide News and journalist Jonathon Moran over its reporting in 2017 of accusations that he sexually abused actress Eryn Jean Norvill.
The pair appeared together in a production of Shakespeare’s King Lear in 2015 and 2016, where Norvill alleged the four-time Academy Award nominee had touched her inappropriately on several occasions, and had made lewd comments.
Rush has denied the accusations against him.
Judge Michael Wigney found two reports and a poster by the company, which publishes the Daily Telegraph, to be defamatory toward the Shine actor.
He called the reporting, in an article headlined “King Leer”, a “recklessly irresponsible piece of sensationalist journalism of… the very worst kind”, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
Both Nationwide News and Mr Moran intend to appeal the court’s decision.
In early 2018, Rush’s legal team said it would be happy to settle the case with an apology and a £27,000 payout from Nationwide News, but the outlet did not respond.
The media publisher later lost a key element in the almost two-week trial after Judge Wigney refused to allow Netflix actress Yael Stone to give evidence of her own personal experiences with Rush.
Stone alleges that the Australian actor behaved inappropriately toward her when they appeared together in a stage production of The Diary of a Madman in 2010. Rush denies the allegation.
However, Judge Wigney said Stone’s evidence created new allegations that would cause Rush “manifest and palpable” prejudice.
Rush said at the time that Stone’s allegations were “incorrect” and had in some cases “been taken completely out of context”.
He added: “I sincerely and deeply regret if I have caused her any distress.
“This, most certainly, has never been my intention.”
A record-breaking damages payout for Australia was awarded to actress Rebel Wilson in a defamation case against Bauer Media last year.
She was originally awarded £2.55m, but this was cut back to £327,000 following an appeal.