Thursday, November 14, 2013

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a/k/a PETA v. Bobby Berosini

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a/k/a PETA v. Bobby Berosini case brief
111 Nev. 615



CASE SYNOPSIS: Appellants, animal rights organizations and individuals, challenged a judgment entered in favor of respondent animal trainer by the Eighth Judicial District Court, Clark County (Nevada), in an action seeking damages for libel and invasion of privacy.

FACTS
Respondent animal trainer was secretly filmed while he disciplined orangutans backstage. Appellants, animal rights organizations and individuals, released the video and made statements concerning its contents. Respondent sued appellants for libel and invasion of privacy and a jury returned a verdict for respondent.

DISCUSSION
  • The court reversed the judgment. 
  • The court held that the distribution of the video was not false or defamatory because it was an accurate portrayal of respondent's discipline method and respondent believed he was doing nothing wrong. 
  • A statement that respondent "regularly abused" the animals was an evaluative opinion and not libelous. 
  • A statement that respondent beat the animals with steel rods was not defamatory because whether the rods in question were steel or wood was immaterial. 
  • The court held that the secret filming was not an intrusion on respondent's expected seclusion because his only expectation was freedom from interference with his animals and the use of the camera was not highly offensive to a reasonable person. 
  • Respondent, as a public figure, could not recover for appropriation and he did not plead a right of publicity tort.
CONCLUSION: The court reversed the judgment entered in favor of respondent animal trainer. A video and statements regarding its contents were not defamatory when respondent's actions were accurately portrayed and the speakers gave their evaluative opinions as to those actions. Respondent's privacy was not invaded by secret filming when it did not invade a reasonable expectation of privacy. Respondent could not recover for appropriation.

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