by: Mario GoLuza
Who says “sex doesn’t pay?” Just ask Hulk Hogan who was recently awarded $115 million by a Florida jury in his sex tape lawsuit against Gawker Media.
On Friday, less than six hours after deliberations began after the two-week trial, Hogan’s victorious verdict was read. Although the case is not fully deliberated and is scheduled to resume on Monday, Gawker founder Nick Denton is already expected to appeal the already rendered $115 million award. Hogan’s legal team stated “We’re exceptionally happy with the verdict…we think it represents a statement to the public’s disgust with the invasion of privacy disguised in journalism.”
For those who were not aware of the suit, Hogan sued Gawker for $100 million for defamation, loss of privacy, and emotional pain, over a video Gawker posted of Hogan and his now former best friend’s ex-wife engaging in sexual intercourse. Hogan argued this violated his privacy under the first amendment. Samantha Barbas, a law professor at the University of Buffalo called this a “potentially turning point in law.” She added “it’s a huge damage award, and just the idea that a celebrity has a right to privacy that outweighs freedom of the press and the public’s right to know…a huge shift in American free press law.”
However, there is a twist to this story. Gawker’s appeal will be based on recent documents that were forced to be unsealed after media companies, such as the Associated Press, sued for access and won. The documents contain allegations, facts and conflicting testimony, such as assertions that Hogan filed suit to hide racist comments made on video; the woman who Hogan had sex with knew it was being filmed; and Hogan participated in an FBI investigation and sting because he was being extorted, that was not presented in trial. All these alleged facts contradict Hogan’s attorneys’ statements that “Gawker took a ‘secretly’ recorded sex tape and put it on the Internet.”
How much privacy do celebrity figures possess?
Although this question appears to that have been answered by the court’s in this case, what’s left of the appeal of this lawsuit shall further determine Hogan’s fate.