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Defamation / Tortious Interference

West v. Edde Entertainment, Inc., U.S. Dist. Ct., S.D. W. Va., No. 3:97-0281

May 1,1998

West was a minister at a church in West Virginia. A member of his congregation showed him a videotape cassette of the movie “Reborn,” which had a picture of West and his wife on the jacket sleeve. Text next to the picture described the movie as the portrayal of a faith healer who had performed fake healings on television. The movie also portrayed the faith healer as an adulterer. West and his wife suffered emotional distress based on concern that West’s congregation would think he had authorized the movie’s use of the photo and was receiving money from it.

They sued the video distribution company that had copied the photograph, alleging false light invasion of privacy, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Defendant argued (1) it had used the photograph legally and (2) plaintiffs could not recover because they had not been damaged financially.

The parties settled for $150,000*, paid by defendant’s insurer. In addition, defendant published an apology in three West Virginia newspapers immediately after the settlement.

Plaintiffs’ expert was Robert Bastress, First Amendment law, Morgantown, W. Va. Plaintiffs’ Counsel: Christopher J. Heavens, Charleston, W. Va., Denese Venza, Charleston, W. Va., Charles S. West, Williamson, W. Va.

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