Joe Dickerson & Assocs., L.L.C. v. Dittmar

34 P.3d 995

 

RULE:

In order to succeed on a claim for invasion of privacy by appropriation of one’s name or likeness, a plaintiff must prove: a) the defendant used the plaintiff’s name or likeness; b) the use of the plaintiff’s name or likeness was for the defendant’s own purposes or benefit; c) the plaintiff suffered harm; and d) the defendant caused the harm incurred.

FACTS:

Defendant was hired to investigate plaintiff during a custody dispute. During the investigation, defendant reported issues pertaining to plaintiff's bearer bonds to the authorities and plaintiff was convicted of felony theft. Defendant then published a newsletter, which defendant sent to various law enforcement agencies and law firms containing articles about investigations, tips about avoiding fraud, and other information. In one article, defendant discussed plaintiff's case, and used plaintiff's name and photograph. Plaintiff sued defendant, claiming invasion of privacy by appropriation of another's name or likeness, as well as defamation. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendant on the grounds that Colorado did not recognize the claim, and the plaintiff had not provided that plaintiff's name or likeness had any value. On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the trial court's ruling, and the plaintiff appealed again.

ISSUE:

Whether a claim for invasion of privacy based on appropriation of one's name or likeness requires evidence that a plaintiff's name has value.

ANSWER:

No, a claim for invasion of privacy based on appropriation of one's name or likeness does not require evidence that a plaintiff's name has value.

CONCLUSION:

The Supreme Court reversed the appellate court's ruling, finding that the newsletter was protected by the First Amendment. The investigator's publication was primarily noncommercial because it related to a matter of public concern, namely the facts of the secretary's crime and felony conviction. The investigator's article detailed how the secretary stole a customer's bearer bonds from her place of employment and cashed them for personal use. In addition, the article described the investigation of the secretary, the fact that the jury convicted her of theft, and how the court ordered her to pay restitution to the theft victim. There was no question that those details about the plaintiff's crime and conviction were matters of legitimate public concern.

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