ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) – Moments after a Florida jury hit Gawker Media and its founder with $25 million in punitive damages for publishing a sex tape of Hulk Hogan, the former pro wrestler told a gaggle of reporters that he and his legal team “made history.”
Hogan said Monday evening that he thought “we’ve protected a lot of people from going through what I went through.”
The smiling 62-year-old, who wore all black throughout the three-week trial, added that he’s been overwhelmed with support by fans.
“Everywhere I show up, people treat me like I’m still the champ,” he said.
On Monday, the jury hit Gawker Media with a $15 million judgment and its owner, Nick Denton, with $10 million.
It also assessed $100,000 against A.J. Daulerio, the Gawker editor who decided to post the edited sex video and wrote the post that accompanied it.
The punitive damages come on top of $115 million the jury imposed Friday after two weeks of trial.
Hogan sued Gawker after it posted a video of him having sex with his then-best friend’s wife. Hogan said he didn’t know he was being taped.
The president and general counsel of Gawker Media said in a statement that the media company expects the multimillion dollar award will be overturned by an appeals court.
Heather Dietrick said in an email Monday night that because the jury was prohibited from knowing about “prior court rulings in favor of Gawker, prohibited from seeing critical evidence gathered by the FBI and prohibited from hearing from the most important witness, Bubba Clem,” that an appeals court could overturn the case.
“We are confident we will win this case ultimately based on not only on the law but also on the truth,” she said.
Hogan’s lawyer had asked jurors Monday to add punitive damages to the $115 million judgment. Gawker’s lawyer pleaded that the existing verdict was already “debilitating” for the company.
During brief closing arguments Monday, Hogan’s lawyer Kenneth Turkel said Gawker Media’s gross revenues in 2015 were $48.7 million and that founder Nick Denton has a total of $121 million, including a $3.6 million Manhattan condo. Gawker Media is worth $83 million, the lawyers said.
Daulerio, the editor, has no assets, the lawyers said. They said Daulerio has $27,000 in student loan debt.
Turkel had asked the jury to decide on a punitive amount as both punishment to Gawker and a deterrent to other media companies.
Jurors have “an ability to send a message,” Turkel said, adding that Gawker acted with reckless disregard when it posted an edited version of the sex video.
Michael Sullivan, representing Gawker, said, “The $115 million judgment “is punishment enough” and “is already far beyond their means.”
“The amount of that verdict could already be debilitating for Gawker Media,” Sullivan said.
“Your verdict will send a chill down the spine of writers, producers and publishers,” he added.
One juror, 35-year-old Salina Stevens, told reporters that watching the video posted by Gawker finally convinced her to find for Hogan.
“I believe his privacy was violated, and that’s not OK,” she said. “The video was worse than I expected … not so much the sex part of it but the conversation. I just feel like if he knew he was being videotaped, he would not have spoken about the things he spoke about.”