The California Highway Patrol has settled with the family of Nicole Catsouras, an Orange County resident who died in a car accident in 2006. Graphic photos of Nicole were released by two CHP dispatchers shortly after the accident. The photos were posted on dozens of websites, and the family was harassed via email and text messages.
The court battle has been prolonged for the family. Their initial suit was dismissed by an Orange County Superior Court judge, who claimed that the family had no right to privacy, but the family appealed and in 2010 the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled that the released photos were an invasion of privacy and the family had the right to sue. You can read the full ruling by clicking here.
Sadly, the ruling does not bring complete closure to the family.
“Over the years, the family has gone through extended efforts to find ways to remove the photos from websites. But as soon as they were taken down on some sites, they would be posted elsewhere.
“I’m determined to get them off the Internet,” her father, Christos Catsouras, told The Times in 2010, “although I’ve been told by every single person who’s an Internet expert that we will never get them removed.”
Despite the efforts proving futile thus far, the Highway Patrol agreed to cooperate with the family in fighting to remove the images from the Internet, as a part of the settlement. LA Times, 31 Jan 2012.
It will be interesting to see how the appeals court ruling affects release of graphic death photos in further cases, especially in celebrity cases like Michael Jackson where an autopsy image was allegedly offered to several news outlets.
Our condolences to the Catsouras family.