- Will Hustler Magazine Pay $19.6M, $250K or Zip for Running Nude Photos of Slain Woman Without OK?
Will Hustler Magazine Pay $19.6M, $250K or Zip for Running Nude Photos of Slain Woman Without OK?
Posted Jan 26, 2012 3:53 PM CDT
By Martha Neil
After a professional wrestler made headlines by killing his wife, his son and himself in 2007, a magazine known for its hard-core pornography published, without permission, nude photos from decades earlier that it obtained of Chris Benoit's wife, Nancy.
A federal jury in Georgia last year awarded $19.6 million in punitive damages in the case, as well as $125,000 in compensatory damages. The trial judge almost immediately cut the judgment to $250,000, however, citing the state's cap on punitive damages, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported at the time.
Attorney Richard Decker, who represented the family of Nancy Toffolini Benoit, vowed to appeal and seek reinstatement of the $19.6 million award, citing an exception to the damages cap, when it can be shown that the defendant "acted ... with intent to harm."
Now he has done so, and in arguments yesterday before the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the magazine, which also appealed, contended that the case should never have been tried. Calling Nancy Benoit, a former model and professional wrestler, a celebrity, he said the publication of her nude photos was protected by the First Amendment because her murder was a newsworthy matter of public concern, the First Amendment Center reports.
An earlier ABAJournal.com post provides additional details about the family's right of publicity suit: