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Gawker’s Bankruptcy and the .1%

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Hulkamania

As many of you will have seen, Gawker filed for bankruptcy, and whatever you think about Gawker media this is a disturbing precedent.

I would recommend this Twitter colloquy between Tom Scocca and yes-that David Simon. I share Simon’s position that Gawker showed poor judgment in publishing the Hogan video. But otherwise, I think Scocca has much the better of the argument. A few points:

  • As I’ve said before, Theil’s involvement really is a big deal. If people with essentially unlimited resources are determined to bankrupt media organizations, it is going to be very difficult to stay afloat. (Consider Mother Jones, which was placed in serious jeopardy by a genuinely frivolous lawsuit.)
  • I wouldn’t say that Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker was frivolous, although AFICT it’s more likely than not to be thrown out entirely on appeal than not. It’s also not a particularly compelling case, and the fact that Hogan and Theil venue shopped to get the case before a state court in rural Florida rather than a federal court in New York is important.  And it’s also important because it’s that choice of venue that meant that the initial jury verdict led to Gawker’s bankruptcy even though there’s a good chance the verdict will be thrown out on appeal and it is virtually certain that the Gawker’s financial liability will be greatly reduced.
  • Even if you believe that there was a tort against Hogan, the amount of the judgment is obviously absurd. As Scocca says, it’s hard to maintain that “there’s $141,000,000 difference between publishing stills and video excerpts” (other media outlets published stills) or “a $140,995,000 difference between recording the video and publishing a short clip” (Hogan settled with the person who recorded the video for $5,000.) It is, for example, about $100,000,000 more than O.J. Simpson had to pay in the wrongful death verdict that resulted from him brutally murdering two people. The fact that an award that obviously has no chance of holding up on appeal  was able to bankrupt a media organization is seriously disturbing.
  • If this case can bankrupt a media organization, it’s a serious problem.
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  • farin

    But a guy who used to work for Gawker was a dick in his testimony and therefore the verdict is fully justified.

  • howard

    so how do we prevent this kind of thing from happening? the basic diagnosis is correct – there are people with essentially unlimited resources for this kind of mischief.

    • angrifon

      My answer would involve tumbrels.

      • ThrottleJockey

        This is a legitimate suit not mischief. We may as well regret that the national enquireread was sued. Good riddance who needs them?

        • ColBatGuano

          Your shortsightedness is duly noted.

          • ThrottleJockey

            When you have Mother Jones, Huffington Post, Slate, Vox, LGM, and the New York Times why do you need some tabloid muckrake??? How can you support a media outfit that profits from slime??? You may as well say you support World Net Daily.

            • brad

              LGM is a media outfit?

              We know, you consider Gawker to be the KKK because you have unreasonable views colored by horrific personal experiences. You have to accept that reality makes it impossible for others to agree.

              • brad

                And I couldn’t help but think of TJ when I saw this comment there;

                Gawker can’t ignore that it’s not a white guy – it’s news. But if you’ve been on this site long enough, you definitely notice that the site focuses on “white guy” crime plenty, especially when its fueled by racism or sexism. It’s a site with a decidedly leftist and feminist crowd, they don’t want to read about inner city black-on-black crime, or crimes committed by Muslims. Just like, say, Breitbart would focus more on crimes committed by those peer groups, to satisfy their conservative, right-wing readership.

                It’s almost like people often see what they choose to.

                • ThrottleJockey

                  Gawker is a tabloid, and I don’t care whether a tabloid’s politics align with me or don’t–because its a tabloid. I ridicule conservatives who get their news from conservative tabloids, and so I’m astonished that any self respecting liberal would want to get their news from a tabloid. But I guess both sides do it.

                • witlesschum

                  It’s not about Gawker. Their management was trash, though it was a plenty big blog empire and published some good writers like Tom Scocca whose piece on smarm was brilliant.

                  It’s about the ability of rich people to use their wealth to destroy publications they don’t like. I fear that’s going to happen to left wing media more than right and I fear it will happen irrespective of whether the media outlets in question act better than Gawker.

                  Gawker’s real crime here was pissing off a multibillionaire, not invading Hulk Hogan’s privacy in the course of revealing him making racist comments during a recorded sexual encounter.

            • ColBatGuano

              Mother Jones has already been the subject of an unwarranted lawsuit. Do you imagine that this will only happen to those you disagree with? Are you that ignorant?

              • If only the nuisance lawsuit against Mother Jones had been mentioned in the OP, to pre-empt that particular line of criticism.

    • Nobdy

      Rules or laws against forum shopping. Rules or laws requiring that any party who is financing a litigation be identified (sure Thiel could hide behind a shell company but at least everyone would have been aware of the shell company.) I am hesitant to suggest any kind of damage caps because they usually serve the powerful, but there are ways to make the appeal process less costly.

      I think the main thing would be disclosure. If Thiel knew his name was going to be out there it might have disincentivized him, and it might have rallied more resources to protect Gawker.

      No perfect solutions, just improvements.

      • cpinva

        requiring that all parties to a suit, not just the named plaintiff, be identified. if someone else is providing the financial muscle to support your litigious activities, then they are, by definition, a material participant in the suit, and should have to be identified.

    • ThusBloggedAnderson

      If the suit vs MJ was frivolous, the plaintiff should’ve been hit with att’y fees.

      But judges are loath to do that, partly for fear of discouraging legit suits by less affluent ppl.

      Still, I hope it’s not just the defense lawyer in me who thinks calling BS on more civil suits would be a good idea.

      • Nobdy

        Attorney fee awards will not dissuade billionaires. They are not operating on a “projected value” paradigm like most plaintiffs are. It’s just one more potential cost to a person for whom costs don’t matter.

        • ThusBloggedAnderson

          But it would help their victims.

          • Warren Terra

            It might. But: only marginally. Even if you have a reasonable hope of getting your costs back, there’s the time, the emotional trauma, the expense of fronting those fees, which may have involved selling valued possessions and so can’t be recouped by being awarded fees, even with interest.

            And: the routine awarding of fees has other problems. If Lex Luthor, Billionaire Evildoer kills my cat, and I sue him for it, he’s going to spend my net worth just on the suit he wears to court. Dare I to sue him when there’s any chance his far fancier lawyers will somehow win the case and he’ll claim expenses?

            • Craigo

              I don’t think “this guy killed my cat” fits the definition of a frivolous suit unless the cat is not actually dead, or you never had a cat to begin with.

              More seriously, fee shifting is not usually involved in cases of that nature. It’s more common in class actions, IP law, antitrust, where the parties are more likely to have deep pockets.

              • I don’t think “this guy killed my cat” fits the definition of a frivolous suit unless the cat is not actually dead

                Schrödinger v. Luthor Evil Enterprises, LLC, a Delaware Corporation.

                • Craigo

                  I was thinking Simpson v. Burns, but this might be more on point.

              • Warren Terra

                I think we can take it as a given that there’s some flexibility in the precise nature of the offense and the lawsuit. Maybe it wasn’t a cat, maybe it was a dog!

                • cpinva

                  well, if it may or may not be in a box, then really, it could be most any animal.

                • Craigo

                  And then we won’t even know if it’s alive or dead anyway.

            • Nobdy

              It’s not an on-off switch though. You can build caps into the law (either hard caps or reasonableness requirements) and limit it to frivolous lawsuits or whatever. You can craft a policy that takes potential abuses into account.

      • Craigo

        That case, if i remember right, was brought in a state without an anti-SLAPP law.

        • ThusBloggedAnderson

          Courts can punish frivolous suits without SLAPP. Rule 11, etc.

          • Craigo

            Sure, but Rule 11 remedies are more narrow than most anti-SLAPP laws – certainly more narrow that CA’s which is the one I’m familiar with.

        • cpinva

          I thought there was a federal anti-SLAPP law? am I wrong about this?

          • Brett

            Only state-level laws, and Idaho doesn’t have one. That’s why VanderSloot could harass Mother Jones and other critical reporters with lawsuits until they gave in or went bankrupt – if there was a federal anti-SLAPP law, his cases would have been dismissed quickly and he’d be stuck paying the defendants’ legal fees.

    • tomscud

      confiscatory taxation?

      • Philip

        People have been joking about this, but it’s really true. Fundamentally, the problem here is not the legal system. The problem here is that there are individuals so wealthy that they have effectively unlimited resources to pursue vendettas. We can paper over it with legal rules, but the only real solution is “don’t allow people to have so much money that they can do this.”

        • howard

          that is an excellent point in response to my initial query.

        • tomscud

          Would also do wonders for campaign finance and various gentrification related issues.

      • Chuchundra

        Sure, why not.

        I’m a big believer in capitalism, but I don’t think there’s any good reason to allow individuals to acquire billions of dollars of personal wealth.

    • Brett

      1. Disclosure requirements on lawsuit financing above a certain amount (say $10,000 per case). That would identify rich people and companies backing lawsuits, while still allowing people to participate in small-donation fundraisers without requiring it.

      2. Federal Anti-SLAPP law. This wouldn’t have helped Gawker, but it would have saved Mother Jones a ton of trouble – and combined with the above, it would make it so that billionaires could only back cases with legitimate grounds going forward, and either they or their shell companies would have to be identified from the get-go.

      Honestly, I’m not really that afraid of what Gawker went through being repeated often. As someone else pointed out down-thread, tabloids have been getting sued over this kind of stuff by public figures for decades and they aren’t dead.

  • michael8robinson

    How is this any more a “disturbing precedent” than Murdoch buying the WSJ, or Bezos buying the Washington Post, or Chris Hughes buying the New Republic?

    I’m serious.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      I think it’s one thing for someone with deep pockets to buy a media outlet and bend it to his own purposes and something entirely different for someone to use the legal system to break a media outlet that published things he didn’t like

      • djw

        Yes, this seems quite obvious. If I run a media organization, I can easily prevent rich asshole from buying it from me, by not selling it to him. This scenario eliminates that line of defense.

        • efgoldman

          If I run a media organization, I can easily prevent rich asshole from buying it from me, by not selling it to him.

          Assuming it’s privately owned. If it’s a public company, there’s usually nothing that can stop some rich sumbitch from buying it up. Carl Icahn has been doing that for decades.

          • cpinva

            “If it’s a public company, there’s usually nothing that can stop some rich sumbitch from buying it up.”

            not actually true. there is a tactic corporate targets can take, to fend off a hostile takeover. it’s called a “Poison Pill”. it normally goes into effect after the federal form, providing the required notification to the SEC, that the stock purchaser has acquired 5 or more % of the currently issued and outstanding voting stock of the target corporation. once that happens, the “poison pill” goes into effect: raising the number of issued and outstanding shares of voting (common) stock. this automatically increases the # of shares the acquiring entity needs to buy, to take control of the company. this is usually sufficient to make any potential buyer back the fuck off, because the cost of acquiring a controlling interest in the company probably just doubled, possibly into the billions and billions.

            again, this something you only normally see in a hostile takeover. a company happy to be the target of a takeover bid wouldn’t bother with it.

            • efgoldman

              not actually true. there is a tactic corporate targets can take, to fend off a hostile takeover. it’s called a “Poison Pill”.

              Well, yeah. But for purposes of this conversation, I don’t think it matters, which is why I didn’t mention it.

      • michael8robinson

        People with deep pockets have been suing the National Enquirer (which pioneered the Gawker business model) for decades, and it remains unbroken.

        The Gawker case is a disturbing precedent for commercial media outlets which exercise reckless disregard for relevant legal precedents in the course of their business. There are very few of these, for what should be obvious reasons.

        The WSJ, Post, and New Republic cases, on the other hand, concern the direct, ongoing, undue and capricious influence of the 0.01% on core institutions of civil society.

        The former may grab attention in a “made for HBO” kind of way, but the latter has actual consequence for the social balance of power.

        • Scott Lemieux

          which exercise reckless disregard for relevant legal precedents

          If the precedents were so plainly against Gawker, why did the plaintiffs not want this case in federal court?

          • Just_Dropping_By

            More sympathetic jury pool? More plaintiff-friendly judges? Florida state court procedural advantages? Better cost award and/or post-judgment interest statutes? To prevent a potential venue change to New York or some other forum more likely to favor Gawker? I certainly don’t file every case in federal court that otherwise satisfies diversity jurisdiction, but I’ve never filed a case in state court specifically because I thought I had a weak case, nor have I ever filed a case in federal court because I thought I had a strong case.

            • efgoldman

              More sympathetic jury pool? More plaintiff-friendly judges? Florida state court procedural advantages?

              I expect all of the above. In a state where they actually elected a medicare/medicaid fraudster governor, and the attorney general pretty clearly took a bribe to drop at least one case that we know of, I’d expect nothing less.

            • cpinva

              pick a venue where the jury pool is more likely than not to know who Mr. Hogan is, and be sympathetic to him.

            • farin

              A federal court had already found the tape to be newsworthy in denying Hogan’s request for an order that Gawker take it down.

      • I really like the bend vs. break language there!

      • DrDick

        Agreed. While I think the case was decided correctly on the merits (this should never have been published, even though I do not care for Hogan himself, the penalty was excessive and the the forum shopping should not be allowed.

    • bk

      As the quintessential New Yorker cartoon caption would say – “Christ, what an asshole.” Are you serious?

    • Warren Terra

      As others have said, the difference should be obvious to you.

      Remember that old cliche about how the free-speech answer to bad speech is More Speech? If you don’t like Murdoch’s WSJ, you can create your own platform from which to expose Murdoch’s habit of eating raw babies (I mean, c’mon; any civilized monster would cook them!). Or, less flippantly, you can build Mother Jones into a nationwide glossy magazine that routinely exposes bad behavior. And then some rich assho|e with a grudge can try to take that away from you, in a courtroom he paid for. The misuse of the courts to stifle dissenting voices that aren’t for sale is a step beyond even the purchasing of voices that are for sale.

      • michael8robinson

        Just a reminder, Mother Jones prevailed:

        http://www.motherjones.com/media/2015/10/mother-jones-vandersloot-melaleuca-lawsuit

        The Gawker case is not a step onto a slippery slope. They proudly played faster and looser, and they became an object lesson in why other publications don’t.

        The U.S. legal system has ample protections for publications which routinely expose bad behavior. If that is what you decide to do for a living, it is probably worthwhile to understand exactly what those are and how they work.

        • Warren Terra

          Just as a few reminders:
          1) they prevailed in a total bullsh!t case that should have been laughed out of court on day one. Which rather puts the lie to your claim about “ample protections”
          2) “winning” cost Mother Jones and their insurers $25 million and two years of effort, distraction, and worry. I don’t think they got any of the money back from the plaintiff; recompense of their time is an impossibility. The time commitment alone could have killed the magazine.
          3) As part of their “victory” Mother Jones (and potentially even third parties!) had to submit to an intrusive, laborious, and potentially humiliating process of Discovery.
          4) The plaintiff responded to his “loss” by announcing he’d enjoyed the process and would happily spend $1 million helping any one else who cared to subject Mother Jones to similar courtroom excruciation.
          5) Note above where I said Mother Jones and their insurers spent $25 million defending this case? Think they can get insurance going forward, at any reasonable rate? With a billionaire pledging to bankroll more legal shenanigans likely to call on such insurance?

          And, no, the Gawker case isn’t a slippery slope – it’s the $140 million precipice after the slope. The only question is how many other media organizations will suddenly realize their foundations aren’t so firmly seated.

          • jamesepowell

            Curious where that $25 million figure comes from.

            • Warren Terra

              Whoops, misremembered/missed a decimal point – two point five million.

              But $2.5 million still seems like real money to me, and Mother Jones is always asking me to toss them a twenty or two.

              • Just_Dropping_By

                When I see that number, all I can say is that Mother Jones got taken for a ride by its lawyers. I recently litigated a multimillion dollar securities fraud case in Colorado with cross-claims/third-party claims/etc. between the defendants in which there were, (a) removal to federal court, (b) three motions to dismiss filed; (c) over 20 depositions taken, (d) three summary judgment motions filed; (c) three summary judgment motions responded to, and (d) the case went all the way to the eve of trial before settling, and it cost less than $2.5 million in fees and costs. A case in Idaho (a legal market that I have to imagine is cheaper than Colorado) and which was disposed of on summary judgment shouldn’t even cost half that much unless the lawyers are either charging ridiculous coastal rates, massively padding their bills, or both.

                • Denverite

                  This.

                  (a) removal to federal court,

                  This is cheap. $3k.

                  (b) three motions to dismiss filed

                  More expensive. Depending on the argument, estimate 40 hours for the motion, 25 hours for the reply. $20k per MTD. $60k total.

                  (c) over 20 depositions taken

                  And now we start to get expensive. Figure six hours for the deps, four hours to travel to get to the deps, and ten hours to prep for the deps. That’s $6k per, so looking at $120k. Probably round up to $150k for discovery-related issues.

                  (d) three summary judgment motions filed

                  Figure 80 hours for the SJ motion, plus 40 for the reply. $40k per, so $120k total.

                  (c) three summary judgment motions responded to

                  60 hours per. $20k times three is $60k.

                  So we’re at just shy of $400k getting this through SJ. I’d bet the cost of taking it right up to the eve of trial is mid $500s.

                  Am I close?

          • michael8robinson

            “Since then, Mother Jones and our insurance company have had to spend at least $2.5 million defending ourselves. ”

            You shifted a decimal place there.

            • Warren Terra

              Okay, true enough. But I think the rest stands …

          • Brett

            The Mother Jones case is a good argument for why we need a federal anti-SLAPP law. VanderSloot would have been laughed out of court if we had one – and he’d have to pay Mother Jones’ legal fees as well.

      • cpinva

        “The misuse of the courts to stifle dissenting voices that aren’t for sale is a step beyond even the purchasing of voices that are for sale.”

        hence, anti-SLAPP suit laws, with potentially catastrophic penalties, for those engaging in such.

    • skate

      michael8, Your list omitted the very recent example of Sherman Adelson and the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

      • sharonT

        Sheldon

  • Diabolical_Engineer

    The forum shopping in this case is particularly ridiculous. This seems to be a recurring issue, particularly with patent law.

    • Philip

      The Eastern District of Texas is, hopefully, doing more even than Larry Elision and his ilk to expose just how broken our patent system is. As soon as the moochers (Republicans who don’t believe in laws) in Congress next get kicked out, hopefully it will finally be fixed.

      • cpinva

        well, those self-same republicans certainly do believe in laws, those designed to infringe on a woman’s right to agency over her own body. so it’s actually just certain classes of laws they don’t care for, not all laws.

        • Philip

          Good point. They’re only anarchists when it comes to curtailing large companies in any way.

      • dr. fancypants

        And no matter how many times the Federal Circuit smacks them down for it, the Eastern District seems to keep relying on its “unique” interpretation of venue rules.

  • Nobdy

    Gawker courted this kind of thing with its constant invasions of privacy and “print anything” ethos. That made it a somewhat easy target, but also makes it perhaps not the best canary in the coal mine for the media in general. It’s significant that neither the proximate (Hogan) or actual (Thiel’s outing) article that caused Gawker’s downfall was actually worthwhile. That doesn’t make what happened okay, and there is cause for concern, but there has been no rash of bad-faith suits yet that we know of. The Mother Jones suit failed (because it was meritless) and let’s be honest, this is not the first time a very rich person has tried (or succeeded) in taking down a hostile media entity.

    There’s also the fact that with the Internet it’s easier than ever to dispose of a corporate entity and reform under a new name with a similar group of writers. I’ve seen a number of media entities I’ve liked go belly up and then re-emerge in a similar format only a few weeks later.

    I don’t know, I guess I think a wait and see attitude is merited here. Let’s see if the threat is real or if this is a one off situation aided and abetted (to a very large degree) by Gawker’s bad behavior.

    • Scott Lemieux

      It’s significant that neither the proximate (Hogan) or actual (Thiel’s outing) article that caused Gawker’s downfall was actually worthwhile.

      “Worthwhile” is really not very important here. I think the Hogan article is worse than not worthwhile, but it hardly justifies bankrupting the company.

    • snarkout

      The same lawyer from Hogan’s case is now pursuing a defamation case against Gawker for saying some guy who didn’t invent email didn’t invent email. Wish I was joking about this. Thiel hasn’t said whether he’s involved with this case as well.

  • Pamoya

    The thing that actually caused the bankruptcy though is the appeal bond, for what was a ridiculously large (and unlikely to be repeated) judgment. I agree there are red flags here, but I think this is going to turn out to be a unique case. We shouldn’t overreact and cause problems for more legitimate plaintiffs, who have it hard enough in the federal civil system as it is.

    • Craigo

      Right. The verdict was justified, the award was too large, and the bond is ridiculous.

    • Breadbaker

      I guess when I see “bankruptcy” all I see is “they took advantage of the law that gives them an automatic stay while the appeal is pending; they’ll presumably get to operate their business in the interim.” This is not fundamentally different from what happened with Texaco in the 80s. I don’t see any stigma from filing for bankruptcy in this situation, and basically Gawker is using the tools available to it to survive. If they win their appeal, the bankruptcy will be a big nothingburger.

      • Warren Terra

        I certainly got the impression that the bankruptcy would be completed and the company sold long before the appeal is decided. Are people expecting the appeal to succeed and the bankruptcy and sale to be canceled?

      • endaround

        The company has been sold. Ziff-Davis is the new owner. This is not business as usual.

  • pianomover

    I had a similar go round with Simon when it was first announced that Thiel was involved. He seems particularly obsessed with the idea that Hogan was involved in an intimate and therefore private act.

    • Nobdy

      I mean, Hogan WAS involved in a private act. The thing Simon seems not to get, which is weird considering how insightful he generally is, is that Gawker doesn’t have to be right for the result of the case to be wrong.

      It’s directly analogous to a minority kid who gets caught shoplifting some candy and ends up doing 6 months in juvie, screwing up his life. The point is not that shoplifting the candy is okay, the point is that the judicial system strongly overreacted, generally for structural reasons.

      • Craigo

        Pamoya brought it up above – the requirement of an appeal bond up to $50 million is absurd. Other states have lower caps, formulas where you post the lesser of several options, alternative security, or allow the trial or appeals court to lower the amount if the defendant can demonstrate the likelihood of severe economic harm even in the event of a successful appeal.

        Are there any states where appeals bonds are not capped at all?

      • Warren Terra

        I thought Hogan knew the act was being recorded, and by someone of dubious character? If so, less than “private”.

        • Nobdy

          How is that fundamentally different than “revenge porn”?

          You knew your boyfriend was taking the photos and you should have known he was an asshole.

          In this day and age it shouldn’t be that just because a recording exists it is okay to widely distribute it.

          I think people are having trouble empathizing with Hogan because he’s a macho older man, and kind of a bad person, rather than a sympathetic young woman, but his situation isn’t really different.

          • Craigo

            How is that fundamentally different than “revenge porn”?

            Here is a Gawker headline from when Jennifer Lawrence at el had nude photos published without their consent:

            “Behind Every Bullied Woman Is a Man Yelling About Free Speech”

            If Gawker had taken a different path then and published the photos also, I don’t think anyone at LGM would have rushed to their defense. But when the victim is an asshole that nobody likes, suddenly there’s a “chilling effect” (on intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy).

            • Scott Lemieux

              Who is defending the decision to publish the Hogan post, exactly?

              • Just_Dropping_By

                Such a defense is necessarily implicit in condemning Thiel for financing the litigation. (It’s not implicit in condemning the absurdly large judgment and refusal of the trial judge to set a more reasonable supersedeas bond amount.) If a case has merit, then why should it be a problem for a litigant to get financing to pursue it, regardless of the motives of the party providing the financing?

              • Craigo

                I didn’t say that you defended the publication of the tape itself. That would seem out of character for you, to say the least.

                But you’ve also argued that the very old and value-neutral third-party financing of legal costs is somehow a new and frightening precedent when used by someone you don’t like on behalf of someone else you don’t like. You’ve also implied that a plaintiff filing suit in his county of residence is somehow “venue-shopping” which is just baffling. And there’s the assertion that the verdict will likely be thrown out entirely on appeal, which is just dropped without any analysis or supporting argument at all.

                Would you have said any of this if Gawker had maintained some consistency in their editorial standards and published nude photos and videos of female celebrities without their consent? Because it looks an awful lot like you – and a lot of other commentators – are deeply concerned because Hogan is a racist asshole and Thiel is techno-libertarian scum.

                Personally I think that any case with Hogan and Thiel on one side and Gawker and Daulerio on the other is the very definition of lose-lose. And I struggled a lot with this when the racist asshole owner of the Clippers was recorded without his consent saying racist assholish things. But the law has to be there for everybody, not just the people I like.

          • Philip

            Yeah. I think it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that, even though the judgment and bond were obscene, what Gawker did was too. Destroy-the-company-and-salt-the-earth bad, no, but absolutely it was seriously immoral.

        • James B. Shearer

          According to Wikipedia “In 2006, Hogan was having sex with Clem while being videotaped without his knowledge or consent …”

        • farin

          That was what Clem told the FBI under oath (and something supported to an extent by Hogan’s behavior in the video). As part of the $5000 settlement with Hogan, Clem later said he was unaware. He refused to testify in the Gawker trial, citing the 5th Amendment.

  • ironic irony

    One small quibble- Pinellas County, FL is definitely not rural.

    • ironic irony

      Also, Hogan lives in this same county, so maybe it’s not a case of venue shopping so much as it is the plantiff filing in the plantiff’s county of resdience? IANAL, so I stand ready to be corrected.

      • Warren Terra

        As a non-lawyer, I’ve heard there are some weird things about Florida law that have been crafted to encourage abusive practices in the courts – most famously, that you could build an edifice of unlimited scale and value and so long as it’s your primary residence and it’s in Florida you can’t lose it to bankruptcy. I can easily imagine Hogan living there for just such a reason, and other aspects of the local law similarly favoring wealthy residents. But: he does live there, I think.

        • vic rattlehead

          That strikes me as a good law. Why should someone lose their home?

          • Nobdy

            It creates an easy way to hide money from creditors. Just build an enormous Florida mansion.

            • efgoldman

              Just build an enormous Florida mansion.

              And watch it float out to sea in a very few years….

            • dr. fancypants

              That seems more like setting money on fire than it does “hiding” it. What are the odds you’re going to get your investment in your Frankenmansion back if and when you decide to sell?

              And don’t you risk screwing yourself on property taxes?

            • twbb

              You can’t pay for groceries with views of your fabulous house, though. Any time you make money with it (rent, mortgage, etc.) creditors can go after it.

        • ironic irony

          As a non-lawyer, I’ve heard there are some weird things about Florida law…..

          FTFY!

      • Just_Dropping_By

        Wait, Hogan lives in the county? If that’s correct, then all the people whining about forum shopping can go **** themselves. If it’s “forum shopping” to sue a defendant in the plaintiff’s home forum when the defendant is properly subject to venue and personal jurisdiction there, then the term “forum shopping” has lost all meaning.

        • ironic irony

          Yeah, I am pretty sure he does. He’s lived in the Trampa…..er, I mean the Tampa Bay Area since he was a baby. He might also have a home in California.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Fixorated!

    • LosGatosCA

      But it is Florida.

      • ironic irony

        Boy, do I know. Just moved from there.

    • Schadenboner

      That’s the court where Mrs. Schadenboner and I got hitched.

      We had always planned to endow a gallon of paint to repaint the marriage room on the occasion of our fifth anniversary, but they don’t do ceremonies there anymore (because: boys kissing, ew?).

  • EliHawk

    I’m legit curious how much of these complaints and remedies are not equally applicable to general tort law and trial lawyers. The company targeted here is a media outlet, but lost in the “chilling of a free press” warnings is the facts / danger (Deep pocketed person backing a plaintiff and forum shopping, huge damage awards, etc.) are the kinds of things you see in class action suits, and the solutions are those frequently targeted by Republicans and their ‘tort reform’ efforts that Scott rightfully opposes. If a suit can bankrupt a media organization, it can also bankrupt any other business. We recognize that those businesses can nevertheless inflict harm and be held accountable by a jury or their peers. Why not Gawker?

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      it isn’t that Gawker shouldn’t be held accountable- but even a unlikable defendant deserves a fair trial and a judgement that isn’t stretched into gratuitous punishment

    • Sebastian_h

      This is exactly right. All of the writing on this case sounds like bog standard tort reform complaining.

      Big awards are scary.

      It might chill us from doing the good work that is the focus of our business.

      Litigation is expensive.

      3rd parties with deeper pockets and an axe to grind can try to destroy our business.

      We may have done some wrong but the jury went out of control.

      That doesn’t make it wrong, but it makes the discussion weird considering how many of the authors wouldn’t accept such arguments from doctors or anyone else. This case highlights the need for a tort overhaul, just with a plaintiff that we can identify with more than McDonalds.

      • But isn’t the free press issue exactly the distinction that makes a difference. If you drive all the fast food companies out of business, there’s no constitutional issue at all. If you scare them into better behaviour, then likewise, fine. These de fact regulations are also ones that a legislature could enact directly. It’s trickier for de facto constraints on speech and the press.

        Doesn’t mean it’s right, just that it’s not mere tort reform.

  • vic rattlehead

    Everyone forum shops. I would argue that it’s malpractice not to forum shop.

  • Docrailgun

    O.J. Simpson was found not-guilty by a jury of his peers. He is innocent of those murders.

    It is, for example, about $100,000,000 more than O.J. Simpson had to pay in the wrongful death verdict that resulted from him brutally murdering two people.

    • Malaclypse

      While he may be not guilty, that doesn’t mean he is innocent.

      • Nobdy

        Hey now. He even got himself sent behind bars so that he could continue his relentless hunt for the real killers! Give the man a break!

    • vic rattlehead

      You’re not as clever as you think you are.

      • DocAmazing

        Ah, but which of us is?

        • searcher

          That’s a dangerous request to make of a genie, “I wish to be exactly as clever as I think I am.”

  • What I want is for this to somehow be resolved in a way where Thiel agrees to settle in exchange for being able to put Denton and Daulerio into a rocket fired into the sun. And then Thiel accidentally locks himself in with them before it’s launched. Win-win-win.

    • Origami Isopod

      Thank you for the feel-good scenario. It makes this thread slightly less depressing.

  • mikeSchilling

    This would not be a thing except for the idiotic 9-figure award that’s going to be reduced by at least two orders of magnitude on appeal. If there’s any general conclusions to be drawn from this one incident, it’s that there needs to be some standard for reasonable damages.

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