Gawker challenges Florida jury verdict in Hulk Hogan case

Image: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

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.

“We emerged victorious once and we plan to do so again,” Hogan’s attorney, David Houston, said in a statement. “It is apparent Gawker is unable to accept responsibility for their actions or demonstrate any intention of correcting their behavior.”

 (Reporting by Letitia Stein; Editing by James Dalgleish)

 Copyright 2015 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

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