A federal appeals panel has tossed out a lawsuit against Hustler magazine brought by the family of a slain professional wrestling personality, a case testing privacy concerns and the competing right to publish “newsworthy” material.
The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta vacated a jury’s $19 million punitive judgment aimed at the publishers of the men’s magazine, which featured old nude photos of Nancy Benoit, killed nearly five years ago by her husband, wrestling superstar Chris Benoit. The couple’s young son also was slain in the family’s Georgia home.
Read more on CNN.
It seems that although the public (as represented by the jury) found the use of the photos tasteless and a privacy invasion not trumped by any newsworthiness exemption, Hustler may have caught a break on this one, because Hustler’s staff all (erroneously) believed that no permission was necessary and that the photos fell under the newsworthiness exemption. Apparently, ignorance of the law can pay off when it comes to punitive damages.
You can read this week’s ruling that vacated the punitive damages.