Cue Bad Wrestling Headlines
As most of you saw (and emailed, thank you!,) a Florida jury on Friday awarded $115 million in compensatory damages to Hulk Hogan, against Gawker, the NYC media company. Hogan sued after Gawker published excerpts of a video featuring Hogan having sex with his best friend's (Bubba the Love Sponge… yep.) wife, a video that Hogan alleged was taped without his consent. Gawker said the tape was newsworthy due to Hogan's previous sexual public statements in the media, while Hogan explained such banter as a part of the character he created vs. his actual civilian self, secretly taped in fragrante delicto.
The jury only deliberated six hours and awarded $15 million more than Hogan was asking for. And everything’s freaking insane about this case, starting with 2013’s Gawker headline taunting the Florida court: "A Judge Told Us to Take Down Our Hulk Hogan Sex Tape Post. We Won’t" (they did.) Some allege the lawsuit was to prevent other, more damning videos of Hogan from becoming public. In a document dump near the verdict, CNN reporter Tom Kludt, who’s in Florida covering the trial, found a reference to Hogan knowing about more than one tape, with others featuring racial slurs, and that he knew “there [was] a lot more coming.”
It doesn’t surprise me that the jury handed down the verdict they did, after reading the transcripts of the sworn testimony (and work IMs-as-evidence) of the Gawker staff. To a jury of Florida non-media folks, a group of snarky NYC-media ‘elite’ smugly publishing a sex tape and screaming “first amendment” seems ludicrous. The New York Times reports that legal experts believe the award will be reduced and that "any wider effect on press freedoms was likely to be limited."
I’m not a lawyer, but I think of parallels to the recent Erin Andrews judgement after she was filmed in the nude by a stalker: $55 million settlement from a Tennessee jury. I read a hypothetical question someone on the internet asked (apologies if it was you, please let me know): What if Andrews had posed for Maxim, or done a silly Q&A with Cosmo, and the stalker had used that to justify the tape? We’d all be freaking out. And yes, the cases are dissimilar, I am just currently shallowly scanning #hottakes and, again, I am not a lawyer.
Interesting tidbit I read in the Toronto Star: the judge in this case, Hon. Pamela Ann Meacomes Campbell, represented Terri Schiavo’s parents and fought to keep her alive.
And now the appeals start.