From Gawker's own article:
"Shiva Ayyadurai didn't invent email—he created "EMAIL," an electronic mail system implemented at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in Newark, New Jersey. "
The question becomes - was this the first full-fledged implementation of the RFCs and was it the first to be commonly referred to that way? It seems dubious, but this guy is not patent trolling. He's merely trying to make sure his place in history is noted.
Honestly I don't feel good about him getting a settlement because I think you should generally be too busy to care what is written about you by professional bloggers and by all accounts he's gotten plenty of recognition from other sources, such as the Smithsonian.
At least no one's trying to take away from Eric Allman, who wrote delivermail (on which sendmail is based).