Privacy Law

Wrongly labeled a porn star by DJs, former 1L is awarded $1M in suit against radio station

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A former law student at the University of Kansas has been awarded $1 million in a suit against a radio station asserting its DJs wrongly labeled her as a porn star.

Federal jurors on Friday ordered radio station owner Entercom Kansas City to pay the plaintiff, Ashley Patton, $250,000 in compensatory damages and $750,000 in punitive damages, report the Kansas City Star, All Access Music Group, Fox4KC and KSHB.

Entercom will not appeal the verdict as a result of a high-low agreement reached by the parties during jury deliberations, according to KSHB.

Patton was a 1L when her name and her high school were broadcast on KRBZ 96.5 FM in April 2012, according to a June decision allowing her false-light invasion of privacy claim. The station’s morning radio personalities had received Patton’s name in two text messages after asking listeners to identify local porn stars.

The DJs then Googled Patton’s name, and the search results returned porn images for someone named “Ashley Payton” rather than “Ashley Patton.” Apparently not catching the different spelling, one of the DJs said Patton’s name and high school on air and said, “Oh God, that poor girl, why would she go into that kind of pornography?” Later the station listed her name on its website and posted a podcast of the broadcast.

When Patton called the radio station and complained she had been identified as a porn star, the program director responded, “Well, are you?” according to the June opinion. The station then corrected the spelling of the listed name, but did not remove the podcast until Patton complained in two conversations with the station’s lawyer.

After the verdict, Patton said she was “surprised by the amount. It will make stations think twice about what they put on the air.” The stories identify Patton as an Olathe, Kansas, woman but do not say whether she graduated law school or became a lawyer.

The radio station tweeted “Wow” after the verdict. An Entercom spokesman said the company was disappointed in the verdict but would abide by the result.

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