Hulk Hogan's 'startling' $115 million verdict could end in Supreme Court, says Bert Fields
The $115 million that a jury awarded Hulk Hogan from Gawker Media on Friday could end up in the Supreme Court, said leading attorney Bert Fields on Saturday.
"There is the possibility that, ultimately, it could go all the way to the United States Supreme Court," he told TheWrap. "You have a constitutional issue."
The massive award could actually backfire for Hogan, said the famed trial lawyer who has represented Michael Jackson, Tom Cruise and many others in leading media and libel cases.
"The award strikes me as being very, very high and perhaps the plaintiffs may be sorry they got that much, because an appellate court might be somewhat shocked by the amount of the award and thus take a tougher view on the First Amendment right," Fields said.
"Judges are only human. To come in with a $115 million judgment is immediately going to create an emotional reaction," he added. "They can reverse a damage award, which they think is based on passion and prejudice."
Fields also said that the $115 million sum could also "influence, suddenly, their decision on whether this is within his right of privacy or not."
The jury ruled that Hogan suffered severe emotional distress over the publication of segments of a tape that featured him having sex with a friend's wife, and that his privacy was invaded by the publication of the footage. The $115 million award was even greater than the $100 million that Hogan had sought.
"The case appears to be whether a public figure has a limited right of privacy," Fields said. "I have always contended that even the most famous public figure has some right of privacy. Very limited, but some."
"Many people believe that once you're a public figure, you have absolutely no right of privacy at all and anything is fair game if it isn't defamatory," Fields said.
The next step is an appeal to a higher state court, but Fields wouldn't be shocked if it goes even higher.
In a statement, Gawker founder Nick Denton said, "We feel very positive about the appeal that we have already begun preparing, as we expect to win this case ultimately."
The decision siding with Hogan tends to support Fields' view, but he admitted that members of the media aren't sure if particular issues, such as sex tapes, are protected by the First Amendment.
"Those are all things that will be argued in an appeal," he said.
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