Gawker aims to erase $140 million sex-tape verdict, claims 'passion and prejudice' swayed the jury

Lawyers for Gawker Media asked for a new trial Monday after a jury awarded Hulk Hogan $140 million because the site posted a clip of the ex-wrestler having sex.

The Florida jury found in March that Gawker violated Hogan’s privacy in 2012 by posting a 1-minute 41-second clip of Hogan having sex several years earlier with his friend’s wife.

The jury held Gawker founder Nick Denton and former editor A.J. Daulerio (who posted the tape) personally liable.

Hogan was also awarded $25.1 million in punitive damages on top of $115 million compensatory damages.

If a new trial isn’t granted, Gawker’s lawyers are asking a Florida state court to vacate or dramatically reduce the amount of damages awarded to Hogan.

Along with the motion for a new trial, Gawker’s lawyers issued a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, which is asking a judge to overrule a jury’s verdict.

Gawker’s lawyers are arguing for the new trial based on four key points:

  • Gawker’s lawyers argue the Florida-based jury, where Hogan is from, based its verdict on “passion and prejudice,” and, in particular, on its “general distaste for the Defendants [Gawker],” according to the motion. 
  • Gawker’s lawyers also argue the jury’s verdict went “against the manifest evidence of the case,” because Hogan’s sex tape was indeed a matter of “public concern,” and that Hogan lacked a “reasonable expectation of privacy in his sexual encounters,” among other evidence, according to the motion.
  • Third, Gawker’s lawyers argue Hogan’s lawyer’s closing arguments “fundamentally undermined the fairness of the trial,” because he urged the jury to “award damages by applying standards that plainly violated the First Amendment.” Hogan’s lawyers suggested in court that Gawker’s post didn’t deserve protection under the First Amendment because the “Defendants did not have the common decency” to reach out to Hogan before the sex tape was published, reports NBC News. However, Gawker argued that the First Amendment doesn’t require outlets to contact subjects of news reports.
  • Last, Gawker’s lawyers argue that the damages awarded by the jury are “grossly excessive,” and should be vacated or reduced. 

The stakes of Gawker’s appeal are high. The site could go bankrupt if it loses the appeal or can’t settle for a reduced amount, New York based attorney Lance Fletcher told Fox News.  

“Gawker has made no secret of the fact that they were planning to file a motion for a new trial and an appeal based on arguments that are meaningless to the case at hand,” David Houston, Hogan’s lawyer, wrote in an emailed statement. “We emerged victorious once and we plan to do so again. Of note it is apparent Gawker is unable to accept responsibility for their actions or demonstrate any intention of correcting their behaviour.” 

Gawker's Motion for a new Trial

 

Gawker's Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict

 

 

Gawker is the high-brow gossip sheet covering media, entertainment, politics and technology.

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