Tuesday, January 31, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Massive Hulk Verdict Against Gawker Upheld

(CN) - A Florida judge denied Gawker's request for a new trial on Wednesday upholding a $140 million verdict against the gossip news website in the Hulk Hogan invasion of privacy case.

Hogan, whose given name is Terry Bollea, sued Gawker in 2012 for publishing portions of a sex tape between the wrestler and the former wife of his best friend, shock jock Bubba "the Love Sponge" Clem.

Gawker's attorneys continued to maintain the First Amendment protected the website post, because Bollea talked about his sex life publicly in interviews.

Gawker's attorneys also argued against the huge judgment, including $60 million for emotional distress.

"The magnitude of the judgment which so far exceeds any other judgment against any other media outlet ... tells us we are not acting in the realm of reason, we are acting in the realm of passion," attorney Seth Berlin told Sixth Judicial Circuit Judge Pamela Campbell.

Berlin said the $60 million for emotional distress and $25 million for punitive damages did not even compare to disastrous medical malpractice judgments or those against tobacco manufactures.

"There is no other case where a plaintiff is getting this kind of award for emotional distress, especially 'garden-variety' emotional distress," he said.

But the arguments failed to persuade the judge, just as they failed to persuade the six-person jury in March.

After the hearing, Bollea's lawyers released a statement praising the decision:

"Gawker has failed and continues to fail in recognizing their obligation to Bollea for their reprehensible behavior and method of doing what they call journalism. Their refusal to accept responsibility for their conduct and denial of the obvious continues to drive their litigation strategy."

Gawker could not be reached for comment.

Earlier in the day, the website pointed to Forbes and New York Times investigations alleging a Silicon Valley billionaire is funding Bollea's lawsuits against Gawker. Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and board member of Facebook, has publicly spoken out against Gawker ever since the website outed him as gay in 2007.

In past interviews, Gawker has said they intend to take the Bollea case to appellate court.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.