Hulk Hogan Awarded $115 Million in Gawker Sex Tape Lawsuit

Hulk Hogan Gawker Sex Tape
AP Photo/Steve Nesius, Pool

A Florida jury awarded Hulk Hogan $115 million in his sex tape lawsuit against Gawker Media, stemming from a 2012 blog post.

The outcome comes after two weeks of testimony and six hours of deliberation on Friday.

The jury found that the news outlet violated Hogan’s privacy by posting the tape online, and that Hogan suffered severe emotional distress in the last three years since Gawker published excerpts of a video, which Hogan claimed was secretly recorded, of the former WWE star having sex with the then-wife of his best friend, radio “shock jock” Bubba the Love Sponge. The video was posted five years after it was recorded and was viewed 2.5 million times on the Gawker site.

Hogan cried and hugged attorney David Houston when the verdict was announced.

Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, was the first to take the witness stand and testified that the publication of the sex tape has “turned my world upside down” and “completely humiliated” him.

Hogan said last week during the trial in St. Petersburg, Fla. that he is “not the same person I was before all this craziness happened.”

“My problem is this whole videotape that you guys put out that lives forever,” Hogan said. “It will be there forever on the Internet.”

Gawker argues that its publication of the footage was protected by the First Amendment.

“I believe in total freedom and information transparency,” said founder Nick Denton in court. “I’m an extremist when it comes to that.”

Denton released a statement on Friday following the ruling.

“Given key evidence and the most important witness were both improperly withheld from this jury, we all knew the appeals court will need to resolve the case,” he said. “I want to thank our lawyers for their outstanding work and am confident that we would have prevailed at trial if we had been allowed to present the full case to the jury. That’s why we feel very positive about the appeal that we have already begun preparing, as we expect to win this case ultimately.”

Hogan won $115 million — $60 million for emotional distress and $55 million for economic damages ($15 million more than he had sought) — with the possibility of receiving more as the jury considers punitive damages and other matters.

Legal experts were shocked by the size of the damages.

“It is a staggering verdict to say the least,” said Pierce O’Donnell of Greenberg Glusker. “It is highly likely that the trial judge will reduce the amount of the award, and if the judge does not grant a reduction, it is highly likely that the appellate court will do so.”

He added, “From what I know, [the award] bears no rational relationship to the sexual privacy interest by Hulk Hogan, nor does it bear any relationship to the amount that Gawker reaped from playing the video. This is what we call a runaway jury.”

Bradley Ellis, partner at Sidley & Austin in Los Angeles, said that it is “never good to have a verdict of this magnitude against a media defendant because by its very nature it chills speech, and will only encourage additional lawsuits.

“I think as much as anything, people are genuinely concerned — and perhaps angry — about the erosion of privacy in today’s world, and this case presented the perfect defendant and set of facts for a skilled trial lawyer to use to get a jury very angry.”

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  1. scallywagy says:

    The verdict on many levels is disturbing because it forces a wider consideration as to what the press can publish, what videos or images it may choose or not be allowed to run in the future? And who then gets to decide that and should editors and media outlets be under constant trepidation and be forced to rein in their stories for fear of unleashing a lawsuit because someone’s sense of decorum and moral outrage was invoked?

    • bob says:

      No it doesn’t. The invaded his privacy. You lliberals are just mad that your favorite snark activist site got bopped for it.

      These are the same hypocrites who said the “Fappening” was “rape”

      They were warned several times to take it down.

      • J Knight says:

        Wrong. Their was no “journalistic” interest in publishing this illegally taped video in it’s entirety. If they wrote a story about it, even with a few censored screenshots from the video, they would have been fine. The published it strictly for prurient interests and basic ad revenue without the consent of the individuals in the tape.

        The expected right of privacy in such a case trumps the “freedom of the press” to publish the video. The story is protected by the first amendment. The release of an illicitly filmed video tape of a private citizen is not. If it was, and I could get an illegally taped video of you having consensual sex with your spouse, then I would be free to publish it all over the internet.

        I would be very careful for wishing for that kind of world. Their are plenty of people who will be happy to break into private people’s homes, plant cameras..then legally sell & publish those voyeuristic videos. And their is plenty of market for it.

  2. Herb says:

    So…where’s the link? Lets see this video.=)

  3. Lex says:

    Click-bait Gawker is going to disappear & the world will be better for it.

  4. Gregg says:

    Nothing to do with free speech at all. If a sex tape were leaked and put online of a famous woman In Hollywood it would be immediately take down aND Condemned for sexism and virtual rape.

    Mr hulk hogan has gone through exactly what any woman celebrity has felt when nudes are hacked out of their phones. It’s disgusting.

  5. lucky day says:

    Hamptons Hogan

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