In what should come as no surprise to anyone following the case, jurors in the Hulk Hogan right to privacy civil suit against gossip-site Gawker, which was brought over release and publication of a 2006 sex tape involving the wrestling superstar, hit the media company with another $25 million judgment late Monday afternoon on March 21, 2016. The award was for punitive damages, an extra penalty that can be handed out in certain cases where it is found a person went above and beyond conscionable measures of injuring another. In the world of litigation, such damages are seen more as a deterrent to potential, would-be lawbreakers.
The $25 million award was broken down into three parts, hitting the company with $15 million, founder Nick Denton individually with $10 million of responsibility, and former editor-in-chief AJ Daulerio, who published the tape and wrote an accompanying graphic, tie-in piece, with $100,000. Tacked onto the $115 million judgment awarded in Hogan’s favor, the total penalty as it currently sits against for publishing the tape is $140 million — a rather large amount, considering the company is valued at only $83 million and brought in total gross revenues of $48.7 million in all of 2015.
The punitive damages determination came shortly after attorneys for both sides had the opportunity to briefly plead with the jury why or why not an award for any amount would have been appropriate. According to reports, Hogan’s attorney told the jury punitive damages were necessary to “send a message,” while Gawker’s representation argued that the verdict amount was already more than what the company is worth and more than what Hogan himself had already requested, and therefore significantly large enough to deter the way media outlets will cover celebrities in the future. Apparently, however, the jury was unconvinced that a money award of any kind was going to be enough in reparations for Gawker’s misstep, as reports surfaced the jury panel of four women and two men asked the presiding judge if they could slap Gawker and the individually named defendants with community service on top of the award. The judge appropriately denied such a request.
Representatives for Gawker immediately released statements following the announcement of the punitive verdict, saying that the jury was not presented with the full amount of evidence and that the appellate court would be able to consider a host of previously sealed documents that only became available after trial concluded late last week. Gawker had already expressed its intention to appeal the jury verdict.