Former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan has been awarded $115 million in his invasion of privacy lawsuit against Gawker.
The verdict awarded Hogan, 62, $55 million in economic injuries and $60 million for emotional distress, after Gawker published in 2012 a portion of a sex tape involving himself and the then-wife of a friend, Bubba Clem, in addition to a 1,400 word description of the video’s contents.
Gawker, in a statement, said it intends to appeal.
Florida law requires a party to post a bond for the full amount of damages, which is capped at $50 million. The Tampa Bay Timesreports Hogan asked for $50 million on Friday, a figure calculated by how much Hogan might have earned had he chosen to market the tape himself.
Hogan sued the media company, its founder Nick Denton and original post author A.J. Daulerio and sought $100 million in damages. He says he was unaware the encounter was being taped, and Gawker says it received the video from an anonymous source.
In closing statements Friday following a two-week civil trial, Hogan’s attorney told a six-person jury that Gawker editors lacked the “common decency” to contact Hogan for comment before posting the video. “What's disturbing about Gawker isn't what they do in a vacuum," attorney Kenneth Turkel said in state court in St. Petersburg, Fla.Ga "It's how proud they are of it.” Turkel asked for sympathy for his client.
Gawker’s lawyers took a stance invoking the First Amendment, which protects media’s ability to publish news deemed legitimate. The subject of the tape’s legitimacy became the fulcrum of the case. Gawker argued that Hogan’s “frequent public discussion of his sex life made the clip newsworthy and thus protected by the First Amendment," according to NPR. The former wrestler testified on March 8 in St. Petersburg, Fla., and maintained a stance that he is no longer the character he portrayed as Hulk Hogan.
Hogan, whose legal name is Terry Bollea, said he was not concerned with “news outlets discussing or even writing about the sex tape,” but that the video being disseminated online was what caused him lasting humiliation.
Additional controversy arose during the case when Daulerio, who no longer works at Gawker, said in court that the only situation in which a sex tape would not be newsworthy is if it involved a child under the age of four. A Gawker spokeswoman later clarified that Daulerio was attempting to make his point in a “flip way.”
Gawker founder Denton issued a statement Friday following the verdict.
“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,” Denton wrote. “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.”