Wrestler receives $115 million after jury finds that his privacy was invaded
After a 10-day trial, a jury in Florida found in favor of Hulk Hogan in his lawsuit against Gawker Media for $115 million in a case that has implications for media in the age of the internet.
Following six hours of deliberation on Friday, the jury found that Hogan suffered severe emotional distress over the publication of segments of a sex tape featuring him having sex with a friend’s wife, and that his privacy was invaded by the publication of the footage.
The jury awarded Hogan $115 million, even more than the $100 million he had sought.
Hogan filed suit against Gawker, maintaining that the site invaded his privacy when it published excerpts of a sex tape featuring the wrestling legend and Heather Cole, the then-wife of his friend, radio shock jock Todd “Bubba the Love Sponge” Clem.
Gawker, meanwhile, maintained that its 2012 publication of the footage was protected by the First Amendment.
During the trial, Hogan (real name: Terry Bollea) testified that he was being recorded during the sexual encounter, and only became aware of its existence through media reports.
Earlier in the trial, Hogan testified that the publication of the sex tape has “turned my world upside-down,” adding, “I was completely humiliated.”
In closing arguments Friday, Hogan’s attorney, Kenneth Turkel, blasted Gawker for not contacting Hogan before publishing the video.
“He wasn’t even called before this was put up,” Turkel said, adding, “they didn’t have the common decency to call one person that was involved with it before they posted this story.”
During his closing argument, Turkel said, “all that was ever asked was that Gawker be decent” and added, “the place is run by a guy who literally believes we don’t have privacy rights,” repeatedly tearing into Gawker founder Nick Denton’s stance on privacy.
The huge damages awarded to Bollea were $55 million for economic harm and $60 million for emotional distress. Punitive damages will be established separately.
Gawker founder Nick Denton issued a statement saying he would appeal: “We feel very positive about the appeal that we have already begun preparing, as we expect to win this case ultimately,” he said.