Gawker Media’s president is anticipating a loss against former wrestling star Hulk Hogan over the 2012 leak of a sex tape.
“It’s probably difficult to win the case entirely, outright, knowing the jury that we’re facing, but it’s possible. More likely than not, we end up with a really small judgment that we can easily carry and we appeal that,” said Heather Dietrick said during a Gawker staff meeting held on Thursday according to Capital New York.
Gawker is facing a $100 million lawsuit filed by Terry Bollea, also known as Hulk Hogan, after the media excerpt released a portion of a sex tape involving him and the ex-wife of shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem.
A $100 million settlement would likely put Gawker out of business. Even if the media company appealed the decision Florida law requires a bond be posted in the settlement amount until the appeals process is complete. That alone could bankrupt the company.
But Dietrick, who also serves as general counsel for Gawker, thinks it is far more likely the settlement will be very small – so small she said it may not even be worth appealing the jury decision.
“It’s quite possible that Hogan just gets a very small judgment against us, and then we have to make the decision: do we appeal that and incur further fees to vindicate the First Amendment rights that we know we’re on the right side of, or do we simply say, OK this very small judgment is a win and makes it very difficult for Hulk Hogan [to continue litigating,]” Dietrick said.
If the media company does make the decision to appeal a verdict in favor of Bollea, they anticipate a win. That appeal would go to Florida’s Second Distict Court of Appeal where the court has already heard eight orders related to the sex tape lawsuit and ruled in favor of Gawker in eight of them.
Should Gawker be forced to appeal a large settlement, Dietrick anticipates the court would allow the company to post a reduced bond because of the case’s significance on First Amendment rights.
In the meantime, Capital New York reports the company is taking steps to minimize its possible negative exposure by asking employees and editors to get approval by Gawker’s legal department over any posts that may put the company at risk of being sued.
So far there has only been one decision from legal that prohibited a post from going up. A staff member discovered what appeared to be a photo of Justin Bieber’s genitals. Dietrick told the employee the photo could likely lead to an indefensible lawsuit and informed him not to put it up.