Hulk Hogan jury hears Gawker’s plea for mercy as punitive phase begins
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (CNNMoney) — Lawyers for Gawker Media pleaded for mercy before a Florida jury that met Monday to consider adding punitive damages to the $115 million they already ordered be given to ex-wrestler Hulk Hogan.
When the six jurors returned to a St. Petersburg courtroom on Monday afternoon for the punitive damages phase of Hogan’s invasion of privacy trial, they were asked to consider the net worth of Gawker, its founder Nick Denton and former editor A.J. Daulerio.
For the company, that’s $83 million, and for Denton, the figure is $121 million, Judge Pamela Campbell told the jurors. Daulerio was determined to have no assets, but did owe $27,000 in student loans.
The jury of four women and two men determined on Friday that Gawker Media should pay Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, $115 million for violating his privacy by publishing excerpts from his sex tape in 2012.
Hogan sued Gawker Media, Denton and Daulerio. Attorneys for the former professional wrestler argued that he suffered as a result of Gawker’s post.
The jury agreed, awarding Hogan $60 million for emotional distress and $55 million for economic injury. Now they will decide whether to tack on an additional amount in punitive damages.
Hogan attorney Kenneth Turkel urged the jurors to “make a statement” with punitive damages, and to use the $115 million they awarded as a “guideline.”
“You send the message,” Turkel said.
“Literally everything was done with a complete and reckless disregard and intent to harm this man,” he added, referring to Hogan.
Gawker attorney Michael Berry’s closing argument amounted to a mercy defense, saying “an additional punishment is unnecessary.”
He said the verdict returned last week will be “financially devastating” to Denton, and could bring “financial ruin” to Daulerio. The $115 million awarded to Hogan “exceeds the value of the entire company by $30 million,” Berry said.
And he told the jurors that their decision will have far reaching implications on the entire news media industry.
“Your verdict will send a chill down the spine of writers, producers and publishers throughout the country,” Berry said.
When the arguments were finished, jurors were allowed to submit questions, as they have throughout the trial.
The lone query, likely prompted by Daulerio’s financial standing, came from a female juror who wondered if community service could be imposed in lieu of punitive damages. The answer was no.