March 12, 2005

And Today's Booby Prize Goes to ...

... TARA REID, who ought not have sued a Las Vegas-based condominium developer for mocking her recent accidental, um, "asset display" in an advertisement.

It seems Ms Reid, who is reportedly an actress, alleges the developers of Sky Las Vegas didn't merely fraudulently exploit her image with their advertisement. No. Ms Reid also charges the developers also libelled her with a tagline in the ad which read, "Dear Tara Reid. Come let it all hang out." This tagline referred to an unfortunate but well-publicized incident in which one of Ms Reid's breasts got loose from an apparently too-confining dress.

According to news reports, the suit claims Ms Reid "has suffered injury to her business in that she has lost value of her reputation." It further claimed the ad "is defamatory because the language carried a defamatory meaning to those who read them rather than an innocent meaning by implying that plaintiff is sexually lewd or immoral."

Okaaaaaay.

Anyone else have the sneaking suspicion that the developers' defense counsel is going to have a lot of fun with this case? Let's put aside the fact that Ms Reid is a public figure and, as such, libel will be a high bar to jump; let's put aside the fact that the allegedly-libelous statement in itself is based on a public happening. Wouldn't a really nasty defense counsel -- which is the type one ought hire -- make a point of attacking Ms Reid's reputation as part of his defense? There are a lot of gossipy news reports out there about Ms Reid, after all, and as far as we know, they are all accurate. Couldn't the defense make rather liberal use of these to make a point?

Our point, of course, is simply that Ms Reid's lawsuit could boomerang quite spectacularly. Which would be great fun to watch, although we don't think that would produce the result for which Ms Reid might hope. Besides, in matters of law, there are three big hurdles which Ms Reid's counsel will have to overcome. We haven't been able to find a copy of the lawsuit on-line, so they may have addressed these already -- but these are the questions we see:

First, did they even file in the right jurisdiction? The advertisement appeared in Vegas magazine, a Nevada-based publication. If the ad was aimed at Nevada readers, and wasn't aimed at California residents, one could argue Los Angeles Superior Court isn't the proper venue for her suit.

This leads us to the second point, which is that Ms Reid's counsel will have to prove to a jury of California or Nevada residents, depending on the judicially-determined proper venue, that the ad was defamatory. We would like to wish Ms Reid's counsel a lot of luck in this regard.

The third point, though, might have some teeth -- the question of likeness. Can one mock a celebrity in an advertisement -- thus appropriating the celebrity's commerical likeness, so to speak -- even if the celebrity in question doesn't agree and isn't compensated? This is a good legal question and one to which we don't have an answer. But given the representation (it's a parody-type tagline, not an image or endorsement) we'd be surprised if counsel would succeed on this point.

Anyway, we do hope the developers would go after Ms Reid for costs if the matter goes to trial, but we expect both parties will settle soon enough. That'd actually be kind of a win-win -- although the developers have already won. Even if they lost a case in court, they've gained publicity that money simply can't buy.

(link via Sheila)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at March 12, 2005 09:15 PM | TrackBack