Nancy Toffoloni Benoit family lost the lawsuit against Hustler Magazine in the dispute of publishing racy photos after her death.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said on Tuesday there wasn’t enough evidence to support a jury’s decision to make Hustler Magazine pay $19.6 million to the family of Nancy Toffoloni Benoit.
Benoit’s family said Nancy Toffolini never gave permission to publish the 24-year-old model photos, while the magazine said they could print them because they were newsworthy.
The magazine’s attorney, Derek Bauer, argued that the case should never have gone to trial because his client was protected under the First Amendment to publish the photos because Benoit was deemed newsworthy. He said the courts have a duty to protect publications that publish “matters of public concern.”
“The public is interested in celebrities. I don’t necessarily approve of it, but that’s for the public to decide,” he said, adding that the type of material Hustler published could also be found in mainstream media, not just “fringe” publications.
The jury’s 2011 decision to penalize the magazine for $19.6 million in punitive damages for printing the photos, but was later reduced to $250,000 to abide by a Georgia law capping damages, which was also denied by the court.
Nancy Toffolini Benoit family attorney, Richard Decker said, “The harm was the absolute loss of the plaintiff’s rights to control her daughter’s image forever and the very important right not to appear in Hustler. They never wanted these photos to see the light of day.”
The magazine published the racy photos after Nancy Toffolini Benoit, 43-years old was killed, along with her 7-year-old son, Daniel, by husband, wrestler Chris Benoit at their Fayette County home. After strangling both his son and wife, Chris Benoit committed suicide.