A jury awarded Hulk Hogan $115 million in damages in his lawsuit against Gawker for invasion of privacy, but it’s still unclear how much money the former professional wrestler will actually receive. Much like Erin Andrews in her recent lawsuit, Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, could potentially end up with a fraction of what he was granted in the verdict.
After a private sex tape of Hogan was published without his consent, a six-person Florida jury ordered Gawker to pay him $55 million for economic damages and $60 million for emotional damages. The case is far from over, though, since Gawker will appeal the decision.
There’s been much speculation regarding the future of Gawker following the verdict, including that the company might go bankrupt as it tries to pay what the jury has ordered. Hogan won’t receive what Gawker can’t pay, just as Erin Andrews won’t receive half of her award because the man who illegally videotaped her doesn’t have the money. According to Gawker attorney Mike Berry, the company is worth around $85 million.
No matter how much money Hogan ultimately wins, he won’t keep all of it. The 62-year-old will have to pay lawyer fees, which Sports Illustrated’s Michael McCann estimates will result in somewhere between 25 percent and 33 percent of what he is awarded.
Hogan will also have to pay taxes on whatever money he’s awarded, since his lawsuit wasn’t related to a physical injury. Even if the $115 million award stays the same — and that appears to be a big if — it appears that Hogan will get less than $40 million at most after giving up half of the money he won in taxes.
At the very least, the appeal means Hogan won’t be paid anytime soon, and it could be a few years before the appeals process is completed. The appellate court could decide that Gawker has to pay less than $115 million, or the verdict could be reversed altogether, determining that the jury didn’t interpret the law correctly.
Will Hulk Hogan's $115M verdict withstand an appeal? A Florida appellate court might have a different take on the 1st Amendment and damages.
— Michael McCann (@McCannSportsLaw) March 18, 2016
“Given key evidence and the most important witnesses were both improperly withheld from the jury, we all knew the appeals court will need to resolve the case,” Nick Denton, Gawker’s founder, said in a statement. “[I] am confident that we would have prevailed at trial if we had been allowed to present the full case to the jury. That’s why we feel very positive about the appeal that we have already begun preparing, as we expect to win the case ultimately.”
In order to appeal the decision, Gawker will have to provide a “supersedes bond.” This money will be returned to the company if they eventually win the appeal, and it could be as much as $50 million. However, a judge might determine the bond only needs to be a small percentage of what Hogan was awarded.
And Gawker could be looking to appeal a decision that’s worth even more than $115 million: The jury is back in court, considering punitive damages.