The Future of Gawker After Hulk Hogan Jury Verdict

Gawker vowed to appeal the jury's verdict against the gossip site.

ByABC News
March 22, 2016, 4:30 PM

— -- Though a jury in Florida awarded Hulk Hogan $140 million in compensatory and punitive damages after he sued the website Gawker, it may not be the end of Gawker.

Experts we spoke with believe the monetary amount Gawker will ultimately have to pay the former pro wrestler, whose real name is Terry Bollea, will be greatly reduced, if not eliminated altogether.

"The amount of the verdict is such that there are tons of reasons why the verdict will be reduced," said Florida trial lawyer Robert Kerrigan, who is not involved in this case.

Bollea had sued Gawker after it posted in 2012 a brief excerpt from a tape in which he had sex with his former best friend's then-wife. Bollea claimed that he didn't know the encounter was being taped. Bollea had asked for $100 million in damages and a jury found he's entitled to $115 million in compensatory damages -- $55 million in economic damages and $60 million for emotional distress -- on Friday. On Monday, the jury awarded him an additional $25 million in punitive damages. Gawker and its founder, Nick Denton, were ordered to split that $25 million, with its former editor-in-chief, Albert J. Daulerio, liable for a lesser amount.

"When you have cases and they involve famous people or the entertainment industry or tabloid media you tend to start talking in bigger numbers and that’s not necessarily justifiable. It’s just a pattern," said Lucy Dalglish, dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland.

Bollea's best friend, Bubba Clem, divorced his wife in 2012.

Gawker has said it will appeal the decision, pointing to the fact that a state appeals court and a federal judge "on four different occasions, ruled that the Gawker post was newsworthy."

"$115 million is punishment enough," Gawker's attorney Michael Berry told the jury on Monday as they considered punitive damages.

Though Gawker Media's recent financials are not publicly available, the company released information showing that its net revenue in 2014 was $44.3 million while its operating income was $6.53 million.

"I’m not saying [Bollea] is not going to walk away with some amount, but he’s not going to walk away with that amount," Florida State University law professor Stephen MacNamara told ABC News.

Heather Dietrick, Gawker Media president and general counsel, said in a statement, "Soon after Hulk Hogan brought his original lawsuits in 2012, three state appeals court judges and a federal judge repeatedly ruled that Gawker's post was newsworthy under the First Amendment. We expect that to happen again -- particularly because the jury was prohibited from knowing about these court rulings in favor of Gawker, prohibited from seeing critical evidence gathered by the FBI and prohibited from hearing from the most important witness, Bubba Clem."

Gawker’s lawyers will likely next file several motions, including a motion to reduce the award or for a new trial, Kerrigan said. The judge may also ask Gawker to pay a bond up to $50 million, according to Florida state law, while they appeal the decision, Kerrigan said.

Tim Baysinger, a digital media reporter at Adweek, said he doesn't believe the case has harmed Gawker's brand. Gawker has changed its journalistic direction and is now focusing on political news.

"I don’t think readers will stop reading them all of a sudden. Everyone knows what Gawker’s brand is," Baysinger said.