In August 2016, Gawker.com shut down after 14 years of—more often than not—controversial online publishing. The website was one of several Gawker Media properties crushed under the weight of a $140 million jury verdict awarded to Terry Bollea (better known as former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan), in a lawsuit financed by eccentric Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel. Thiel’s clandestine legal campaign was part of a vendetta against Gawker Media, a venture he confirms was singularly focused on bankrupting the company through litigation. His success sent shudders through the media world, demonstrating that determined actors with deep pockets could sue the Fourth Estate out of existence.
This Note explores the strategy employed by actors like Thiel, who have weaponized third-party litigation funding as a means of attacking and silencing an already weakened free press. While these “revenge litigation funding” schemes are fueled by the same kind of nefarious ends that underlie the rationale of champerty and maintenance—the legal doctrines that historically restricted third-party litigation funding—their protections do not sufficiently address the issue. This Note suggests additional avenues by which this threat might be ameliorated, including the adoption of stronger anti-SLAPP statutes, increased regulation of third-party litigation funding, and amendments to the discovery rules that would more readily unveil the presence of a vengeful funder.
Nicole K. Chipi,
Eat Your Vitamins and Say Your Prayers: Bollea v. Gawker, Revenge Litigation Funding, and the Fate of the Fourth Estate,
72 U. Miami L. Rev.
Available at: https://repository.law.miami.edu/umlr/vol72/iss1/7