Gawker challenges Florida jury verdict in Hulk Hogan case

Wed Apr 6, 2016 11:47am EDT
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By Letitia Stein

TAMPA, Fla. (Reuters) - Gawker has filed a challenge in Florida court to a jury's recent decision to assess $140 million in damages after finding that the media website had violated a celebrity's privacy rights by posting a 2012 sex tape of wrestling star Hulk Hogan.

The New York-based online outlet, which had planned to appeal, filed motions on Monday seeking a new trial, or to reverse or reduce the jury's decision.

The case involving a longtime star of World Wrestling Entertainment has been widely followed for testing boundaries between a celebrity's privacy rights and press liberties under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution in the digital age.

Last month, a six-person jury awarded Hogan $60 million for emotional distress and $55 million for economic damages. The jury then slapped another $25 million in punitive damages on the company and its publisher and CEO, Nick Denton.

"Gawker is now beginning the process of challenging the jury's verdict in a trial where key evidence was wrongly withheld and the jury was not properly instructed on the constitutional standards for newsworthiness," Gawker said in a statement.

Hogan sued the website for posting a one-minute, 41-second edited video clip in 2012 featuring him having sex with the wife of his then best friend, the radio shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem.

The 62-year-old wrestling icon, whose legal name is Terry Bollea, testified that he did not know that their consensual tryst was being recorded when it occurred nearly a decade ago inside Clem's home.

The jury found overwhelmingly in his favor after a two-week trial in St. Petersburg, near Hogan's home.   Continued...

Terry Bollea, aka Hulk Hogan, sits in court during his trial against Gawker Media, in St Petersburg, Florida March 17, 2016.  REUTERS/Dirk Shadd/Tampa Bay Times/Pool via Reuters