(CN) – Hulk Hogan can face off in state court against Gawker and the woman who allegedly secretly recorded and released their sex tape, a federal judge ruled.
Gawker had hoped to preserve federal jurisdiction by claiming that the lawsuit “fraudulently misjoined” Heather Clem as a defendant, but U.S. District Judge James Whittemore said the “claims against Heather Clem and Gawker are ‘logically related’ and rest on the same set of operative facts – namely, the recording and publication of the video.”
Terry Gene Bollea, who wrestled his way to fame in the 1980s as Hulk Hogan, had initially sued Gawker and Clem separately on Oct. 16, 2012 – about a week and a half after Gawker published snippets of his sex tape.
He filed the suit against Gawker and several related entities and employees in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. The suit against Heather Clem and her ex-husband, Todd Clem, was filed in the circuit court of Pinellas County, Fla.
Hogan claimed that he had no knowledge that his 2006 encounter with Heather Clem had been recorded, and he said she and Todd Clem had recorded and published the video together.
Later that month, Hogan reached a confidential settlement with Todd Clem, a Florida disc jockey who goes by Bubba the Love Sponge. He then dropped Todd Clem as a defendant, dismissed his federal case against Gawker and amended the state court complaint against Heather Clem to name all the Gawker defendants.
Gawker quickly removed the case to the case to U.S. District Court. Had Heather Clem not been included, the suit between Florida-based Hogan and New York-based Gawker would qualify for federal jurisdiction because it involved interstate parties, it said.
The media gossip website also claimed that the speech and privacy issues of the case are matters of constitutional rights, and should automatically put the case under federal jurisdiction.
Judge Whittemore disagreed, saying Bollea’s “references to constitutional privacy are made in passing.”
“Any decision regarding the application of federal law to Bollea’s claims will be backward-looking in nature and, while important to Bollea, Clem, and Gawker, will not affect the ability to vindicate crucial constitutional rights in the future or settle issues that would govern numerous cases in the future,” he added.
The statute of limitations similarly does not foreclose Hogan’s claims against Heather Clem because the complaint “plainly asserts a claim against Heather Clem for publication of the video,” according to the 15-page ruling (emphasis in original).
“While the date of recording appears on the face of the First Amended Complaint, there are no allegations concerning the date of Heather Clem’s alleged publication that would enable an evaluation of the statute of limitations at this stage,” Whittemore wrote.
The judge granted Hogan’s motion Thursday, remanding the case to circuit court.
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