‘Drunk of the Week’ Feature Gets Paper Sued

     SEATTLE (CN) — Seattle’s alternative weekly newspaper published a photograph of a woman’s face and bare breast in its “Drunk of the Week” feature, though she was sober and in Pittsburgh at the time, the woman says in a defamation complaint.
     Tamar Hage sued The Stranger, its corporate parent Index Newspapers, and photographer Kelly O’Neil on Sept. 7 in King County Superior Court.
     The Stranger was founded by Tim Keck, a co-founder of The Onion. It is edited by Savage Love columnist Dan Savage.
     “Drunk of the Week” was a weekly photo column by staff photographer O’Neil, who no longer works for the paper, according to the complaint.
     Hage says her picture was featured in December 2015 with her nipple blocked out in the print version but her bare breast shown online.
     The long caption reported that the women in the photo had been drinking “champagne, whiskey, and ‘mystery punch’ … several glasses of all three” at Thanksgiving. And “What a joy to see TWO nipple slips instead of just one!”
     Hage says the caption is false, as she was celebrating her grandmother’s 90th birthday in Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving and was not drunk. Nor did O’Neil or The Stranger ask for or receive permission to print the photo, which invaded her privacy, Hage says.
     When she complained to the newspaper, Hage says, it “deceptively informed” her that it was not a photo of her at all, but of “a woman in Michigan named ‘Lisa.'”
     Hage adds: “The Stranger and/or O’Neil deceptively went to great lengths to conceal their misconduct in an attempt to dissuade plaintiff from asserting a claim against The Stranger and/or O’Neil.”
     As part of the lengthy deception about “the topless woman depicted in the Drunk of the Week piece,” Hage says, the newspaper’s general manager sent her an email “with an attached purported release form purportedly signed by a ‘Lisa’ and another alleged photograph of ‘Lisa.'”
     The email said, in part: “I do agree that you bear a striking resemblance to Lisa in the photo that ran in Kelly’s column and can understand the confusion, but I want to reassure you that it is not you.
     I apologize, once again, for any stress this has caused you or your family. The picture has been removed from our site and will not be reposted. I hope this can finally put your mind at ease. “
     Then the ruse became really bizarre, Hage says. She says the photograph of Lisa was actually a picture of O’Neil’s friend Lisa Marceau Lorincz, who denied that the bare-breasted picture was of her because she was being treated for breast cancer at the time.
     “Lisa Marceau Lorincz denies ever signing a release for defendant O’Neil and denies ever being the subject of a photograph where her bare breast and nipple are exposed,” the complaint states. “(A)t the time The Stranger and O’Neil claim the topless Drunk of the Week photograph was taken of Lisa Marceau Lorincz, Ms. Lorincz was in fact undergoing breast cancer treatment, had not yet undergone reconstruction surgery, and could not have been the subject of a photograph depicting a bare breast and nipple at that time.”
     That ruse makes the newspaper’s deception “even more deplorable,” Hage says, as it dragged in a woman who had nothing to do with the fiasco, but who was “bravely fighting breast cancer.”
     Hage says the “abusive, embarrassing and humiliating Drunk of the Week piece” embarrassed her before her friends, relatives and coworkers.
     She seeks damages for defamation, privacy invasion, false light, outrage, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and consumer law violations.
     The Stranger’s legal department did not return an email request for comment sent over the weekend. Hage is represented by Paul Fogarty

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