Justices refuse to reinstate award against Hustler

Monday, December 10, 2012

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court won’t reinstate an award against a racy magazine in a dispute over nude pictures of a model published after she was killed by her professional wrestler husband.

The high court turned away a request by the family of Nancy Toffoloni Benoit to reinstate a jury’s decision to make Hustler Magazine pay them almost $20 million. The magazine published the photos after she and her son were killed in 2007 by wrestler Chris Benoit.

Benoit’s family said Nancy never gave permission to publish the 24-year-old photos, while the magazine said it could print them because they were newsworthy.

The jury’s 2011 decision to penalize the magazine $19.6 million was later reduced to $250,000. The award was then thrown out by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The 11th Circuit wrote in its May 2012 decision: “Because there was overwhelming evidence that [the publisher] reasonably and honestly (albeit mistakenly) believed that the photographs were subject to the newsworthiness exception to the right of publicity, we conclude that no reasonable jury could find by clear and convincing evidence that punitive damages were warranted in this case.”


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