Hulk Hogan Enlists Journalism Expert in Case Against Gawker

Michael Samson

Written by
— Updated on June 23, 2020

Hulk Hogan Enlists Journalism Expert in Case Against Gawker

Hulk Hogan Expert WitnessWrestling legend Hulk Hogan is reportedly paying between $250-$350 an hour to an expert witness in his suit against Gawker to read old Gawker posts and analyze them.

Michael Foley, a professor of journalism at the University of Florida, is being paid $350 for time he spends testifying. As well as $250 an hour for prep work.

According to Capital New York, Foley spent about 15-20 hours of his work time just reading and analyzing old Gawker posts and content.

Hogan allegedly had an extramarital affair with his former best friend’s wife, Heather Clem. This was recorded on camera, allegedly without his knowledge. In October 2012, Gawker published parts of the recording. Which led Hogan to file a $100 million invasion of privacy lawsuit against Gawker Media.

Foley is a veteran newspaper journalist, having spent three decades at the St. Petersburg Times, where he became executive editor. He was named the University of Florida’s Hugh Cunningham Professor of Journalism Excellence in 2006 and received the Society of Professional Journalists’ Distinguished Teaching in Journalism Award in 2013. He was named “Teacher of the Year” for the 2006–07 school year. At which point, he said in his deposition, he increased his expert witness rate from $200 to $250 an hour.

However, Gawker is questioning the legitimacy of Foley’s expertise. The two previous cases Foley worked on never went to trial. Gawker is referring to Foley’s testimony as “pure opinion,” which, according to Florida law, would be insufficient and unacceptable. The law requires “sufficient facts or data” and “reliable principles and methods” in order to be admissible in court.

Since neither case made it to trial, he has never been certified by a judge as an expert in journalism or journalism ethics. He has also never actually presented expert testimony to a jury.

Since 2013, Florida courts have followed the Daubert standard when it comes to expert witness admissibility. It seeks to ensure only relevant and reliable testimony is included at trial. Under Florida statute 90.702, “If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact in understanding the evidence or in determining a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify about it in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if:

  1. The testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data;
  2. The testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
  3. The witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.”

The prosecution contends that Foley is qualified as an expert witness and is there to testify that Gawker is not a reputable news website, but rather one that simply profits by defaming others. Foley is testifying in order to discuss journalistic integrity and standards, and how Gawker failed in those regards. Therefore the prosecution believes his teaching background and career experience qualify him as an expert under the Florida statute to provide relevant and reliable testimony.


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