A Florida jury has awarded Hulk Hogan $115m (£79m) after the gossip news website Gawker published a sex tape of the retired professionalwrestler.
Mr Hogan’s legal team argued the New York-based website violated his privacy and thevideo was not newsworthy.The case, which pitted freedom of the press against a celebrity’s right to privacy, has been closely watched.
The video was posted in 2012 after Mr Hogan was secretly recorded having sex with his friend’s wife.Lawyers for Gawker argued that although jurorsmight find the website’s actions distasteful, theconcept of freedom of the press was more important to uphold.Mr Hogan’s lawyers said Gawker did not contact him or the woman in the video before the video was published.”This is not only his victory today, but also anyone else who’s been victimised by tabloid journalism,” Hogan lawyer David Houston said outside the courtroom.Gawker, known for its acerbic tone and aggressive coverage of celebrities, maintained that Mr Hogan’s private life was newsworthy because he made it part of his public persona.”He has consistently chosen to put his private life out there, for public consumption,”
Gawker’s lawyer Michael Sullivan said during the trial.However, Hogan lawyer Kenneth Turkel said during the trial that Gawker typified the often anything-goes world of internet publishing.The verdict could lead to more caution among Internet news websites, which frequently have less editorial oversight than traditional media outlets.
Gawker’s founder Nick Denton and journalist AJ Daulerio were held liable in the lawsuit.Even before the verdict was announced, Gawker said in a statement that an appeal was likely. Large jury awards are often reduced during the appeals process.Mr Hogan, whose given name is Terry Bollea, said the release of the sex tape hurt his career.He was one of the most popular professional wrestlers of the 1980s and 1990s and later starred in his own reality television show with his family.In recent years, Mr Hogan’s personal problems have conflicted with his one-time child-friendly persona.His longtime employer World Wrestling Entertainment cut ties with Mr Hogan in July after he was recorded using racial slurs.