Hulk Hogan was awarded $115 million in damages by a Florida jury today in an invasion of privacy case against the website Gawker over its publication of a two-minute sex tape featuring the wrestler. Mr. Hogan had argued that the publication of the tape, which showed him having sex with Linda Clem, the now ex-wife of his former best friend Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, had violated his privacy and caused him undue emotional distress.
The wrestler’s legal team said the verdict represented “a statement as to the public’s disgust with the invasion of privacy disguised as journalism.” While Mr. Hogan himself did not speak to the press, he was seen sobbing when the verdict was read, and he posted several tweets after leaving court:
Both Gawker founder Nick Denton and former editor in chief AJ Daulerio were found liable in the case. The online media company, which recently changed its focus to politics and employs about 250 people across its seven websites, is required to post a bond of up to $50 million.
Mr. Denton released a statement promising to appeal the verdict, and lamenting the fact that Mr. Clem, the “most important witness,” had not testified.
“I want to thank our lawyers for their outstanding work and am confident that we would have prevailed at trial if we had been allowed to present the full case to the jury,” Mr. Denton said. “That’s why we feel very positive about the appeal that we have already begun preparing, as we expect to win this case ultimately.”
The jury will decide next week whether to impose punitive damages on Gawker
Members of the media quickly reacted to the case on Twitter:
Over the course of the two week trial, the jurors heard testimony about everything from the size of Mr. Hogan’s penis to the age at which a celebrity sex tape would or would not be newsworthy. They also got a crash course in New York media, apparently not a frequent topic of conversation in the Sunshine State.