A jury awarded former wresting star Hulk Hogan $25.1 million in punitive damages Monday in his invasion-of-privacy case against Gawker Media.
The decision brings the total damages in the case to $140.1 million.
The same six jurors took just six hours Friday to decide that Gawker was liable for the October 2012 publication of an amateur sex video featuring Hogan — whose real name is Terry Bollea — and awarded him $60 million for emotional distress and $55 million for economic damages.
Gawker has indicated it will appeal the verdict.
“We have heard the jury's decision, and we look forward to going to the appeals court where the law will be followed and the facts known,” its founder and chief executive, Nick Denton, told reporters outside the courthouse.
Although the case is full of salacious details, it has also been watched closely for the issues it raises about privacy in the Internet age and what qualifies as news. News outlets such as Gawker have long seen celebrities as having little right to privacy because of their status as public figures.
During the trial, lawyers for the company argued that it was merely exercising its 1st Amendment right to free speech when it published the video.
One juror, 35-year-old Salina Stevens, told reporters after Monday’s decision that she did not accept that argument.
FOR THE RECORD
5:13 p.m.: A previous version of this article said Stevens was 33. She's 35.
“I don’t want [the 1st Amendment] to be used improperly, and I think that it is used improperly all too often,” she said.
She said that watching the video — which showed Hogan having sex with the young wife of a friend — made it clear to her that his privacy rights had been violated.
“The video was worse than I expected ... not so much in the sex part of it, but in the conversation,” she said. “I just felt that if he knew he was being recorded, he would not have spoken about the things he spoke about. It was very human.”
Under Florida law, the jury could have awarded Hogan up to three times the original award in punitive damages, or $345 million.
But that never seemed likely, as Judge Pamela A.M. Campbell of
Florida’s 6th Judicial Circuit Court in Pinellas County told the jury that punitive damages should not have a devastating effect on the defendants.
The jury decided that Gawker should pay $15 million in punitive damages and that Denton should pay $10 million.
Albert J. Daulerio, who was editor in chief of Gawker.com at the time the sex video was published, was ordered to pay $100,000.
It is unclear what effect the damages will have on the future of Gawker if its appeal fails.
According to financial data and readership statistics presented by Hogan’s lawyers in court Monday, Denton, Gawker Media and his other companies are worth a total of $276 million. Denton alone has a net worth is $121 million, with $117 million of that coming from his shares in the company and $3.6 million from his condominium.
The lawyers said Daulerio has no monetary assets and owes $27,000 in student loans.
Michael Berry, an attorney for Gawker, had argued that the $115 million already awarded was punishment enough.
“The amount you have rendered in your verdict is already far beyond their means,” he told jurors before they began deliberations Monday afternoon. “An additional punishment is unnecessary.... Your verdict will send a chill down the spine of publishers, writers and producers throughout the country.”
The case has been winding through court systems for more than three years. In 2014, the 2nd District Court of Appeal of Florida tossed out an injunction obtained by Hogan's lawyers requiring Gawker to take down the video.
After his victory Friday, Hogan tweeted to his 1.4 million Twitter followers: “Told ya I was going to slam another giant.”
“I feel great,” he said outside the courthouse Monday. “I'm really happy about everything that's happened and I think we made history today because we protected a lot of people from going through what I went through, so we're very excited.”
Neuhaus is a special correspondent.