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Brief note re: Hulk Hogan’s $140M jury award against Gawker

March 23, 2016 No Comments »
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An insightful and well-written article by Eriq Gardner of The Hollywood Reporter can be found here: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/why-hulk-hogans-140-million-876990

My take on the $140 million jury award to Hulk Hogan against Gawker is that it does not portend a stifling of the press or an impediment on the First Amendment.  The amount is a lot, sure.  A substantial amount of it is punitive damages.  And to be clear, there are particular facts in this case that should give everyone pause about how far the media can go in publicizing information of any kind, at any cost, no matter how it is obtained, and no matter the consequences.

I’m not taking a position on whether Gawker should or shouldn’t be liable or to what extent.  But just as the First Amendment and freedom of the press is of paramount importance and should be cautiously navigated, so too is the right of privacy and the extent to which any and every piece of information can be deemed newsworthy and subsequently published.

The Right of Publicity and the First Amendment have always moved in lockstep.  Some cases get it right; some don’t.  Some favor the First Amendment, others favor the Right of Publicity.

As Eriq Gardner’s article correctly notes, the ruling is likely to be appealed.  The amount of the award could easily be reduced.  The parties could settle on an undisclosed amount to end the litigation.

But I do not have any particular concerns at the moment about the fallout of the Hulk Hogan ruling.  The facts of the case are quite specific, and the legal process has to be allowed to play out.  If a jury finds that something unacceptable or egregious took place, perhaps they are not wrong.


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