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Bronx Personal Injury & Real Estate Blog

Monday, January 28, 2019

Can I sue for emotional distress over someone’s unflattering use of my image?

New York personal injury attorneys know that personal injury lawsuits don’t always come from physical injuries. They can also arise from psychological pain instead. 

Recently, a young model from Brooklyn sued the Division of Human Rights after learning it used a stock photo of her in newspaper spots for an HIV public health campaign. The campaign reportedly featured her face and the words “I am positive” and “I have rights”. 

According to the lawsuit, the model was “completely shocked and sick to the bottom of her stomach” when she learned of the campaign from her friend’s social media post. She also reportedly worried excessively over the impact it may have on “her friends, employer, clients, exes and future boyfriends” if they believed she had HIV as a result of the campaign.

Generally, the licensing agreements attached to stock photo sites contain a required “Sensitive Use Disclaimer”. Such a disclaimer might provide that, regardless of the breadth of the license purchased, if you use a model’s picture and connect it to a subject that a “reasonable” person would feel was “unflattering or unduly controversial”—like a sexually transmitted disease—you must indicate that the content is “for illustrative purposes only” and that the person in the photo is a model. It wasn’t noted which photo stock resource was used or whether such a disclaimer was required.

While the presiding judge reportedly found that the model “suffered emotional distress and humiliation during the immediate aftermath of the publication and for some time thereafter” and awarded her $125,000, he did not award future damages citing that the woman has a “thriving vintage clothing business” and is reportedly not in counseling over the experience.

To prevail in a personal injury action, a victim must prove that the negligent, reckless, or intentional actions or inactions of another person or entity caused the victim’s physical and/or psychological harm. Compensatory damages differ but may include current and future medical or rehabilitative treatment, current and future lost income, physical and psychological pain, and more, depending on the particular circumstances. 

If you or a loved one have suffered physical or psychological pain as a result of the actions of someone else, the Goldstein Law Firm may help maximize the compensation to which you may be entitled. Contact us today for a free consultation. 

From our offices in the Bronx, New York, we represent insured New Yorkers and their families throughout New York City and New York State, as well as those injured while visiting New York. 


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