Gawker Media Hit for $140 Million in Hulk Hogan Defamation Suit
Last year this case pitting a media outlet's First Amendment right versus a celebrity's right to privacy caught our eye. Hulk Hogan, the ring name for retired "wrestler" Terry Bollea, sued the digital media outlet in a defamation suit alleging that posting a sexual encounter between Bollea and his friend's wife invaded his privacy.
On Friday, a 6-person south-Florida jury awarded the Hulkster a cool $115 in damages, only to be followed-up yesterday with an additional $25 million in punitive damages for the sex tape post. Not to be daunted, Gawker has vowed to appeal the verdict and soon will be angling to avoid posting an appeal bond that could cost every dime of $50 million.
This case featured a vile yet salacious act, recorded under dubious circumstances, blasted onto our news feeds by gutter journalism on steroids. After the verdicts were announced, media outlets showed some concern that a poorly defined right to privacy could trump a media outlet's right to free speech.
There is a notion that if a huge defamation verdict like this one withstands appeal, it will have a chilling effect on the media, including the more traditional media. The Gawker defamation case seems to have created a notion, even if temporarily, that one's right to free speech can be abused and that media outlets can be punished when doing so.
This is one of the cases that we will track on appeal over here at the Law Blogger. We will be sure to keep you posted.
Post Script - June 10, 2016
The Hulkster's judgment will indeed bring down Gawker as we know it today. Gawker has filed for bankruptcy and is for sale; its founder says he and his staff of writers will simply migrate to another platform to continue their craft.