The term “Hulkamania” is defined by the Urban Dictionary as: The strongest force in the universe. That definition has now taken on even more street cred with the decision in the Hulk Hogan case. And we present another 140 million new reasons to get written, signed model releases – especially in sensitive issue situations – always.
If you’ve been avoiding the news lately or have been hiding under a rock and missed the story of this case, we urge you to Google it and you’ll find countless stories. It’s been portrayed as another major battle in the war between privacy and 1st Amendment rights. The case has been fought, concluded, but it is likely not over. Note that this case would likely have different results if brought in another state.
Back to Hulkmania, what is stronger than all of Hulk Hogan’s famed rivals (including but not limited to The Iron Shiek, Roddy Piper, Randy Savage and Andre the Giant) combined? Why its the Hulkster employing some legal tactics with the help of the laws of the state of Florida.
The jury award of $140 million (not a misprint) to wrestler Hunk Hogan staggered his opponents more than any haymaker in the wrestling ring would. Payment will come from website Gawker, likely an insurance carrier, and the two individuals who were found to be personally liable – Gawker editor Nick Denton and former editor, A.J. Daulerio. We think 140 million dollars definitely qualifies as “Hulkamania!”
Here’s a bare bones synopsis of the facts in the lengthy and salacious court case which resulted in a jury verdict, which as another celeb might say, is “Huuuuuuuuuuuuge”:
- In 2012 famed wrestler and entertainer, Hulk Hogan (using his real name Terry Bollea) files suit in Federal court. Hogan claimed that an explicit video of him having sex with his friend’s wife was shot without his knowledge or consent and then subsequently published by the gossip site Gawker;
- Hogan claimed (among other things) invasion of privacy, emotional pain and lost income. Gawker essentially relied on the 1st Amendment defense afforded publishers. Gawker claimed that Hogan had “made his sex life a matter of public interest” and that the use was “editorial”.
- After the case was rejected by the Federal Court it wound up through various legal maneuvers – too complex to recite here – in Florida state court. Hogan sued Gawker, its officers in the individual capacities and the filmmaker, husband of woman with whom he was having sex, known as “Bubba The Love Sponge”. (We couldn’t make this name up if we tried).
- Note that at this point the overwhelming majority of legal “experts” predicted that Hogan’s case was doomed notwithstanding that there was no dispute that he had been filmed performing intimate acts without his consent.
- After release of (among other things) the tape, Hogan was fired from his employer World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and took a multi-million dollar hit to his income.
- The media and its legion of attorneys fought Hogan’s case tooth and nail. In October of 2105, Hogan won a motion granting his lawyers access to Gawker’s files, emails and computers to check on the source of the tape and its “provenance”. That grunt work lead to plaintiff Hogan being able to make his case against Gawker.
The jury awarded the Hulkster $115 million dollars reflecting his financial losses and emotional distress. It tacked on another $25 million dollars in punitive damages. Now the press is already full of stories about how these awards will be reduced on appeal. Maybe yes, maybe no. These were some of the very same legal eagles who predicted that Hogan would “never see a dime”. Even if it is reduced, Mr. Hogan will get more dimes than anyone can count in a lifetime.