Well, justice has spoken and things did not turn out well for Gawker.
On Friday, the Florida jury hearing the civil lawsuit brought by Hulk Hogan, real name Terry Gene Bollea, against the gossip site for violating his privacy by publishing a sex tape, found in favor of Bollea. It awarded him $115 million -- $15 million more than the former professional wrestler and media personality originally sought.
And that’s not even including the punitive judgment, due out today.
Bollea sued Gawker for $100 million over its 2012 publication of extracts from a sex tape made without his knowledge, showing him sleeping with the wife of his best friend,Todd Alan Clem, better known by his radio shock jock moniker “Bubba the Love Sponge.”
Among other legal arguments, Gawker’s lawyers contended that the sex tape was newsworthy because Bollea often bragged about the size of his endowment, which the video appeared to contradict.
For their part, Bollea’s lawyers argued that Bollea was acting in his persona, Hulk Hogan, while making those statements. Former Gawker editor A.J. Daulerio eventually admitted that Bollea’s penis was not actually newsworthy in itself during his testimony.
Doubtless to their relief, the jurors never actually saw the sex tape, which was ruled out before the trial began — along with a large amount of other evidence and witness testimony, much of it potentially helpful to Gawker —by Florida Circuit Court Judge Pamela Campbell.
For example, Campbell prohibited Gawker’s lawyers from citing text messages between Bollea and Clem, who also refused to testify on Gawker’s behalf.
Florida has state laws protecting privacy, and at the federal level, judges and judicial scholars have interpreted the Fourteenth Amendment to include an implied right to privacy. However, Gawker is certain to appeal on First Amendment grounds, as well as the argument that the exclusion of certain witnesses and evidence resulted in an unfair trial.
Gawker founder Nick Denton released a statement saying he was “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.”
Gawker recently pivoted away from its coverage of media industry gossip to focus on politics. Together, the site and Denton have a cumulative net worth of around $200 million.