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Hulk Hogan’s $115 Million Judgment May Ruin Gawker, Change Celebrity News
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Hulk Hogan. Photo courtesy of NY Post.

Summary: Hulk Hogan won his invasion of privacy lawsuit against Gawker. What will the $115 million verdict do to the website and celebrity news in general?

On Friday, Hulk Hogan won his biggest fight yet. The celebrity wrestler, real name Terry Bollea, was in a closely scrutinized legal battle with gossip website, Gawker, for invasion of privacy. While pundits thought the case would be thrown out due to the First Amendment or would be settled for a few million dollars, the Florida jury stunned when it awarded the wrestler $115 million in damages. He had originally asked for $100 million.


NPR reports that Gawker, which is owned by Nick Denton, plans to appeal the ruling. Bollea, 62, was awarded $55 million in economic damages and $60 million for emotional distress. Today the jury will reconvene to discuss punitive damages.

Bollea filed the suit in 2012 after Gawker published a tape of him having sex with Heather Clem, wife of his friend Bubba the Love Sponge, a comic. The sex was consensual, but Bollea says he did not know he was being filmed. Gawker somehow obtained the footage and released it on its website along with 1,400 words describing the video. Throughout the trial, Gawker argued that anything celebrities do that is interesting can count as news and that Hulk Hogan opened the door to the footage being shown by often talking about his sex life.

But the jury disagreed that consensual sex was newsworthy. Bollea said that his character of Hulk Hogan was different than who he was in real life, and that Bollea’s privacy was violated. His lawyers also said Gawker lacked any journalistic decency. Attorney Kenneth Turkel said they didn’t even contact Bollea for a statement before airing the sex tape.

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According to NPR, Gawker warned the jury that a large judgment could ruin the company, which we reported makes $40 million a year. Before the ruling, NPR reports that Gawker employees “gleefully” covered the case prior to the judgment, but they have not commented since. In a statement, Gawker’s Denton said that key evidence was improperly withheld and that an appeals court “will resolve” the matter.

Besides possibly taking down a website known for content that is sometimes vicious, this case may change celebrity news overall. If a sex tape between famous adults committing adultery is not newsworthy, can celebrities stop other intrusive stories from publication? After all, celebrities have successfully outlawed paparazzi from snapping pictures of their children and a law has passed limiting the crazy ways paparazzi follow stars. This landmark case may finally hold websites accountable for what seems to be an increasing internet trend of violating celeb privacy in order to get clickworthy but often unnecessarily cringeworthy tabloid content.

It is unclear whether or not Gawker can afford the judgment, but no matter what though, “Gawker will appeal the case, but under Florida law will have to hand over at least $50 million in monetary damages and if Hogan defeats their appeal they will hand over the rest of the money whenever the case is settled,” The Daily Mail writes.

Source: NPR



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