Surfer Loses Bid to Settle Her Spat With Gawker
LAS VEGAS (CN) - Noting a lack of desire on the part of Gawker, a federal judge refused to order an early settlement conference in a celebrity surfer's defamation case.
Hannah Cornett filed the complaint against the media gossip website and its editor-in-chief, A.J. Daulerio, in August 2013.
Noting that Gawker's sports blog Deadspin called her a "grifter" in several 2011 articles, Cornett sought punitive damages for defamation, privacy invasion and negligent interference with prospective economic advantage.
The case saw a flurry of activity last week with Gawker refusing on Aug. 26 to accede to Cornett's demand for a settlement conference. After U.S. Magistrate Judge Carl Hoffman cited this reply in denying Cornett's motion on Aug. 27, Cornett filed a renewed motion later that day, saying the court should at least hold oral arguments.
Hoffman denied that bid Thursday, noting that Gawker's Aug. 26 answer made it "abundantly clear" that it "does not, at this time, have any desire to participate in the early settlement conference."
"Defendant has indicated that it has no intention of settling the matter at this time, describing the motion for settlement conference is akin to a 'shakedown' - hardly a description supporting any belief that a settlement conference would be effective at this stage in the litigation," Hoffman wrote.
Though Cornett said she has emails that prove settlement discussions are underway, Hoffman said settlement discussions are common and do not indicate a settlement is imminent.
"The parties are free to engage in settlement discussions, but there remains nothing before the court indicating that conducting a early settlement conference would be a wise use of the parties' or the court's resources," Hoffman wrote. "Consequently, after considering the information provided in the motion for reconsideration, the ... record still does not support a settlement conference at this time."
Real estate mogul James Alesi, a friend of Gawker publisher Daulerio, sued Cornett in 2011, claiming that the actress-surfer-model ran up $20,000 in unauthorized charges on his credit card while staying at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas. Cornett said she prevailed in Alesi's suit, so Daulerio ran three articles in September 2011 on Deadspin that called her a grifter.
In addition to punitive damages, Cornett also wants an apology and a retraction. She is represented by Airene Williamson in Las Vegas and Steven Kernan in Beverly Hills, Calif. Gawker is represented by Chad Bowman of Washington, D.C.