Canberra – An Australian newspaper publisher has appealed a court ruling that it defamed Oscar-winning actor, Geoffrey Rush, in a series of articles.
In May, Nationwide News, the parent company of Sydney tabloid newspaper the Daily Telegraph, was ordered by a Sydney judge to pay 2.9 million Australian dollars ($2 million) as damages to Rush for publishing series of articles about the actor.
The articles alleged that Rush, 68, made inappropriate sexual advances towards an actress.
The two-day appeal hearing, challenging both the defamation judgement and the damages ordered, started on Monday at the Federal Court in Sydney in front of three judges.
Tom Blackburn, the lawyer representing the Rupert Murdoch-owned publisher, told the court there was no evidence Rush was unable to work or had received no or fewer job offers as a result of the damage to his reputation.
Rush’s lawyers had argued his career was damaged and his reputation smashed and destroyed as a result of the reporting.
Rush, who won an Oscar for his performance in the 1997 film Shine, pulled out from a Melbourne theatre production of Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ after the articles.
His movie “Storm Boy”, released this year, flopped in the box office.
The actor sued the Daily Telegraph and its journalist in 2017 for defamation over reports that he sexually harassed and inappropriately touched a young female co-star during a Sydney production of “King Lear” in 2015 and 2016.
Justice Michael Wigney ordered the publisher to pay Rush 850,000 dollars in general damages and about two million dollars in special damages to cover past and future economic loss.
The pay was the largest defamation payout to a single person in Australia.
Blackburn argued that the special damages award to Rush were extraordinary and absurd.
The tabloid has listed more than 16 grounds for the appeal and argued that Wigney’s conduct gave rise to an apprehension of bias.
However, Blackburn later dropped the bias claim, saying he saw no utility in the circumstances in pressing on because they were seeking a retrial on other grounds.
Lawyers for the publisher have also argued that they were denied procedural fairness in several respects during the trial, court documents show.
Rush was in court with his wife for the appeal hearing on Monday, Australian state broadcaster, ABC reported.
He has vehemently denied the claims his lawyer will address the judges on Tuesday.
The defamation hearing took place last November.
In April, Wigney, a justice with the Federal Court, found Rush had been defamed by the articles and a poster, including that it implied without evidence that Rush was a pervert and a sexual predator.
One of the front-page headlines had read King Leer with Rush’s headshot from the production.