By Amy E. Feldman
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A New Mexico woman sued a novelty products company for defamation this month for printing a novelty flask with her 1970 yearbook photo on it, with the caption: I’m going to be the most popular girl in rehab.
Funny. You know, when it happens to someone else. Can you imagine the horror if someone found your high school yearbook photo?
But can a picture, not photoshopped but an actual picture of you, be defamatory? Yes, it can be. Because defamation is a falsehood about a person that damages her reputation.
And while we can chalk the unflattering 1970s photo up to the country’s decade-long flee toward disco and bell bottoms and away from good taste, it may be embarrassing but it isn’t exactly false. However, the statement next to it: ‘I’m going to be the most popular girl in rehab’ paints the poor woman, who says she is a church going tea-totler in her lawsuit, in a false light.
It happens regularly that people in newspaper photos with horrible captions sue for defamation because the context gives the false sense that someone is involved in bad behavior, and in this case, a bad hairstyle.