Gawker and Hulk Hogan’s Sex Tape



I keep getting asked about First Amendment issues, the trial court’s award of 115 million dollars, and privacy rights.

First, I’m not a Florida attorney and nothing on my site is legal advice or something that anyone should take as gospel without referring to an attorney in their jurisdiction.

With that out of the way: Gawker losing out 115 million at the trial phase is probably a bit of a lesson in client management.  They were pretty flippant about the process and during depositions this happened:

Attorney: “Can you imagine a situation where a celebrity sex tape would not be newsworthy?”

Gawker Editor: “If they were a child,”

Attorney: “Under what age?”

Gawker Editor: “Four.”

Clients can really poison the well if they don’t take things seriously and comments like that can really infuriate a jury.

With that said, I think Gawker wins on appeal.  The First Amendment issues have already been litigated in both the Middle District of Florida and at the State appellate level.  In both circumstances Hulk lost because the  tape in question was deemed newsworthy.  When the suit was initially in the Middle District the judge refused to grant an injunction predicated on the newsworthiness of the tape (which basically spells defeat moving forward) so Hulk filed in State court instead where the trial court granted his request for a temporary injunction which was promptly knocked down by the State appellate court with similar reasoning to the Middle District.

Hulk Hogan will likely not be writing new First Amendment case law for law students to agonize over.  Gawker still faces a gigantic headache though and it might have been preventable if they could have controlled themselves a little better — joking about a sex tape featuring a 4 year old doesn’t really win the hearts and minds of trial judges or juries.

Posted in: Free speech

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About Brian Lynch

Brian Lynch graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with high honors and a degree in Public Policy studying science and technology policy. Brian earned a Juris Doctor from California Western in 2012. Brian is a member of the State Bar of California and admitted to practice in the U.S. Southern District of California and the U.S. Central District of California. Brian also manages and implements policy for an online community of over 40 million users and started in 2016 to tackle some of the pain points associated with trademark and copyright filing.

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