Former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan on Friday won an invasion of privacy lawsuit against the online gossip site Gawker.
A Florida jury awarded him $115 million. The media outlet had posted on its website a snippet of a video that showed Hogan having sex with Heather Cole, the then-wife of his best friend, Tampa-area radio shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge. Hogan sued.
The jury returned on Monday and piled on top of the $115 million award. It awarded Hogan an additional $25 million in punitive damages.
A juror, Salina Stevens, told reporters that the jury awarded Hogan $65 million in emotional damages and $50 million for economic hardship Friday because “we wanted to send that message: This is more important than anything else.’’
She said they tacked on the other $25 million Monday as punishment after getting “an idea of what each person’s making and [taking] a percentage of that.’’ It is not clear what she meant by a percentage of what each person's making.
Gawker will appeal. If they lose on appeal, the website will likely have to shutdown.
It might be instructive to take a look at how this case might have evolved in a Private Property Society.
The media dubbed the case a battle between the First Amendment of the US Constitution, guaranteeing free speech and a free press, and the Fourteenth Amendment, where courts have determined that a right to privacy derives under equal protection of life, liberty and property.
In a PPS, though, there would be no broad law (amendments) that would hold everywhere. An owner of a property could set his own rules for his property. They could be generally defined rules made in advance or rules not identified in advance. Naturally, proceeding into areas where rules aren't defined in advance would not be recommended, just like it is not now recommended that most people wander into the bad parts of town, especially in the wee small hours. Or onto ISIS territory at any hour.
An owner could allow all taping on his land and maintain the rights to such tapes--even to sell them if he chooses. Another owner could ban such taping and consider taping a violation.(Hotels, for example, would certainly ban the taping of guests.)
Thus, all an outfit like Gawker would have to do is check to find the circumstances under which a tape was made. If it was made on a property that stipulates such filming is allowed (or there are no stipulations in advance), then it could buy rights to the tape from the owner and publish them. If on the other hand, the tape was made on a property where such taping was not allowed, an individual would be able to seek any damages he chooses for the tape being published if there weren't prescribed limits to damage awards.
Obviously, what would happen in cases like this is that media outlets would be very careful to only post tapes that were filmed on property where such filming was allowed.
There would be none of this roll of the dice where parties wouldn't know where they stood until jurors walked back into a court room after completing deliberations. It would be a much more sane world.