Celebs layer in publicity value to boost damages claims

A recent BVWire included an item about the value of the right of publicity, a topic of interest after the death of Prince. This concept also figured into the case of Erin Andrews, the former ESPN sportscaster who was videotaped naked through a hotel peephole by a stalker. She sued both the hotel and the stalker, and a jury awarded her $55 million.

According to a blog post, Andrews had filed an amended complaint during the case, citing additional damages she suffered from the “unauthorized use of her image and likeness.” Her damages claim went from $10 million to $75 million. “With those seven magic words, the damages increased more than seven-fold,” writes Justin Hibbard (DZH Phillips LLP), a damages expert and forensic accountant. “No longer was the case just about mental and emotional harm—it was also about a highly paid celebrity’s right of publicity.

A new lawsuit filed by Hulk Hogan related to his sex video case suggests that economic damages may be based partly on the right of publicity, Hibbard writes. Hogan had won a $150.1 million verdict against Gawker Media LLC and is now suing other parties, alleging a conspiracy to profit from releasing still images, audio, and transcripts from the video.

Hibbard notes: “Rights of publicity are becoming a common measure of damages in cases dealing with the unauthorized use of a celebrity’s image.”