Judge Cites Bieber in Denying Mug-Shot Class
TAMPA, Fla. (CN) - A Florida woman whose mug shot appeared online after her arrest last year is not fit to represent a class that would include troubled pop star Justin Bieber, a federal judge ruled.
"The court cannot disregard the right of certain individuals to pursue damages based on the commercial value of their image due to their celebrity, i.e. pop star Justin Bieber and professional athletes Chad 'Ochocinco' Johnson and Manny Ramirez, whose images appeared on the websites and would be part of the class," the Monday decision states. "Further, some of the class members paid to have their image removed and may be entitled to a refund and bound by an arbitration provision."
Shannon Bilotta brought the lawsuit in question after her name and image stemming from a June 2013 arrest in Florida appeared online, allegedly for commercial purposes without her permission.
U.S. District Judge James Moody refused earlier this year to dismiss the claims against Arthur D'Antonio, who operates the websites justmugshots.com and mugshots.mobi. Citizens Information Associates LLC, Justmugshots.com and Kyle Prall are also named as defendants.
Bilotta alleged common-law invasion of privacy and violations of Florida's right of publicity statute and Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
The defendants retrieve mug shots from the websites of various law-enforcement offices and publish them on bustedmugshots.com, mugshotsonline.com, justmugshots.com, mugshots.mobi and whosarrested.com.
Visitors can pay a fee to utilize the "unpublishing services" of these websites, or they can have their mug shot taken down for free if they submit documented evidence of exoneration from the arrest, as defined by defendants. The websites also advertise other products and services.
Bilotta asked that the court certify a class of "all persons who were arrested in Florida and whose names and photographs have been published on the websites since August 30, 2009."
Judge Moody declined to do so Monday on the grounds that Bilotta could not adequately represent the class since her situation was not typical and she did not have the same injury as other potential class members.
The defendants had argued that class certification as to the injunctive claims alone would deny the rest of the class due process as to their monetary claims.
Moody agreed, stating: "a class should not be certified if the court must engage in individualized determinations of disputed fact in order to ascertain a person's membership in the class."
"A class is ascertainable if the court can determine whether a given person is a class member through administratively feasible methods," he added.