Monday, May 10, 2010

Frivolous Lawsuits Vol 4


I learned a new legal term today.  I don't say "wow" because my legal vocabulary is so extraordinary that it would be unusual for me to learn a new legal term.  I say "wow" because it blows my mind that you can sue someone for this.

Case in point:

So lemme get this straight...

You agreed to go on this reality TV show, correct?


You knew you were going to be filmed and put on national TV, right?


You drank a hefty amount of alcohol?


You made a fool of yourself in front of the cameras?


Aaaaaand now you think MTV should pay you $5 million fooooooor... what exactly?

Invasion of privacy under the "false light" tort.

Wait, but you agreed to be on the show, correct?


You knew they were going to film you and put you on national TV, correct?


So somehow it's MTV's fault that you drank too much and behaved poorly in front of the camera???

[Cricket's chirping]

I was pretty darn sure the high-paid lawyers who work for the networks would have put some sort of silly legal disclaimer in the contract about, "If I act like a dumbass in front of the camera, it's my own darned fault and I can't sue the network because it's not their fault that I'm a dumbass."

Then I looked up "false light" on wikipedia.  This part blows my mind:
False light differs from defamation primarily in being intended "to protect the plaintiff's mental or emotional well-being" rather than protect a plaintiff's reputation as is the case with the tort of defamation[1] and in being about the impression created rather than being about true or false.

So you can't sue them for defamation because (a) it's TRUE that you drank too much and acted like an idiot in front of the camera on national TV, and (b) you're not trying to protect your reputation.  However, you CAN sue them for showing the world that you ARE an idiot and because it adversely impacted your emotional well-being???  

I can imagine some circumstances in which I've done something dumb, but figured nobody needed to know, and if someone published or broadcast it then I would be upset that everyone knew I was an idiot.  In this case though, you AGREED to go on TELEVISION.  You VOLUNTEERED for them to broadcast your behavior to the world - good or bad, so if you behaved badly, then it's your own darn fault!!!

I suppose I should just feel glad that if I ever do make a fool of myself in public, I can sue people for publicizing my stupidity and affecting my emotional well being.   Ahhh, the American legal system! :-)


Tabor said... my head really hurts.

Ruth said...

You have got to be kidding me! No? You're serious? Well, he did show himself to be some sort of idiot...

Hilary said...

It's the first line in the linked-to article that has me wondering in the individual's favor...

"If you sign a waiver to be on reality TV while you're drunk, does it count?"

I would think that the intent to expose and humiliate the individual is pretty obvious if they worked to get her drunk BEFORE signing the waiver.

There are without doubt countless frivolous lawsuits filed daily but not everything is always as cut and dry as it appears. And I have little faith in reality TV producers as behaving scrupulously and above board.

"In this case, Amirmotazedi claims she was too inebriated to sign a lawful waiver. "Outtakes from the 'Real World'... show that Plaintiff in fact was not in a position to provide her consent to Defendant portraying her in a false light or disclosing private facts about her," says the complaint." This quote comes from

blunoz said...

Hilary - Thank you, you bring up an EXCELLENT point. It is possible I misread this. It all depends on how you read that first sentence.

I read it as, she signed a waiver [to be on reality TV while you're drunk], as in, she signed the waiver BEFORE getting drunk / while sober. In that case, I don't think she has a leg to stand on (in my highly educated legal expertise).

You opened my eyes to the fact that I may have misread it. Maybe it meant she signed a waiver [to be on reality TV] while she was drunk. In other words, she was already drunk when she signed the waiver. In that case, I agree with you Hilary, I would agree with her lawsuit if the reality TV show producers found some girl drunk in a bar and got her to sign the waiver while she was drunk so they could put her on TV acting like an idiot.

Very interesting. Maybe not so frivolous after all.

SandyCarlson said...

Wow. So many ways to protect ourselves from the reality of our lives. And how nice the system conspires with us.

SandyCarlson said...

Wow. So many ways to protect ourselves from the reality of our lives. And how nice the system conspires with us.

Karen said...

Good Grief! Thanks so much for visiting my blog. AND thank you for your service for our country, no matter how crazy she gets. Blessings**

Anonymous said...

Your tax dollar at work... ;-)

It's crazy to protect people from their own .. er... stupidity!

TechnoBabe said...

You can sue anyone for anything but winning a case is not as easy as filing a lawsuit.

Maggie May said...

That is so very strange......
How mad can people be?!
Thanks for coming over to see me!

Nuts in May

lime said...

sweet fancy moses, we have lost common sense. personally i think being filmed acting like an asshole ought to be within sentencing guidelines for judges as perhaps the public shame might curb some of the stupid behavior.

although i will say the issue of whether the waiver was signed while drunk or intoxicated is an important distinction. if you're sober shame on you. if you're drunk shame on those exploiting you.

thanks also for vistiing my POTW

Indrani said...

Strange indeed. Interestingly related.
Thank you very much for being at mine.

Mrs.Morris said...

I was recently filmed for a supposed up and coming reality show on MTV, I did NOT sign a waiver. I got drunk, I DID act like a complete idiot. Now, I am afraid that it will air and my husband will be really upset with me, not to mention I look like an idiot (I don't handle alcohol well)... so if I didn't sign a waiver, they can't put me on TV, right???? I knew they were filming though...

blunoz said...

Mrs. Morris - I'd have to refer that question to a lawyer. I don't THINK they can put you on TV if you haven't agreed to let them put you on TV. However, I don't know if the lawyers could make any argument about you saw the camera and didn't tell them to go away and therefore implied consent to be filmed.