Hulk Hogan Awarded Additional $25 Million in Punitive Damages in Sex Tape Trial

Scott PolacekFeatured Columnist

Hulk Hogan arrives before the start of his trial Thursday, March 17, 2016, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Hogan, whose given name is Terry Bollea, and his attorneys are suing Gawker Media for $100 million, saying his privacy was violated, and he suffered emotional distress after Gawker posted a sex tape of Hogan and his then-best friend's wife. (Dirk Shadd/The Tampa Bay Times via AP, Pool)
Dirk Shadd/Associated Press

Wrestler Hulk Hogan was already awarded $115 million in his lawsuit against the website Gawker after it posted a video of him engaging in sex, per Tom Kludt of CNN. Hogan received even more on Monday for punitive damages.

According to the Associated Press, the jury in the case gave Hogan an additional $25 million “in punitive damages, above the $115 million already awarded.”

Nick Madigan and Ravi Somaiya of the New York Times provided context for the reason Hogan was suing Gawker in the first place: "At issue in the case, in Pinellas County Circuit Court, was a grainy black-and-white tape made in the mid-2000s, which showed Mr. Bollea having sex with the wife of a friend of his at the time, Todd Clem, a radio shock jock who had legally changed his name to Bubba the Love Sponge Clem."

Kludt clarified it was the same jury of four women and two men that made the initial decision on Friday to levy the $115 million in damages against Gawker. Hogan responded to the first ruling on Twitter:

As far as the punitive damages, Kludt said the jury decided Gawker was responsible for $15 million, while the website’s founder, Nick Denton, was responsible for $10 million. What’s more, former editor A.J. Daulerio was responsible for $100,000.

On Tuesday, Denton released a statement on the decision:

The decision by a Florida jury to grant $140 million in damages for a story on about a Hulk Hogan sex tape was extraordinary. The number is far larger than even the plaintiff himself had asked for in relief. It’s a huge pay-day for an indiscretion that would have been quickly forgotten, one among many in the professional wrestler’s personal life.

The enormous size of the verdict is chilling to Gawker Media and other publishers with a tabloid streak, but it is also a flag to higher courts that this case went wildly off the rails. The plaintiff’s lawyers, with the occasional assist from our witnesses, successfully painted Gawker as representative of an untrammeled internet that good and decent people should find frightening and distasteful. Emotion was permitted to trump the law, and key evidence and witnesses were kept from the jury.

A state appeals court and a federal judge have already held repeatedly that the 2012 commentary and short video excerpt, which joined an existing conversation and explored the public’s fascination with celebrity sex tapes, were newsworthy. We have had our day in trial court, and we lost. We will have our day back in appeals court, and we will be vindicated.

Kludt noted it took the jury almost four hours of deliberation before reaching the punitive decision.

Kludt also pointed out Gawker President Heather Dietrick was still confident in the website’s ability to win in the appeals process. Dietrick “cited a trove of documents that the jury had not been allowed to see and testimony it was not allowed to hear.”

That went along with a statement Denton made after Friday’s initial ruling, as Brian Stelter of CNN shared:

Kludt described the strategies of the attorneys during Monday’s hearings for the punitive damages as well.

Hogan’s attorney, Kenneth Turkel, said the jurors should “make a statement” with their ruling as a way to send a message following the original $115 million. However, Gawker’s attorney, Michael Berry, used his closing argument as something of “a mercy defense,” per Kludt. Berry said the $115 million was already a crippling financial blow to Gawker and Denton and that adding even more to it through punitive damages was unnecessary.

Outside of the appeals process, the question now for Hogan is whether he will return to the WWE.