(CN) – Metro New York, a free daily newspaper, must face a defamation claim for pairing an article about gangs with the image of a black child photographed without his parents’ permission, a state appeals court ruled.
Jayden Knutt and his parents, Hayden and Jan, sued Metro International S.A. for publishing a photograph of the 10-year-old boy at a Brooklyn crime scene cordoned off with yellow police tape.
Headlined “Call to Get Tougher on Gang Activities,” the article about shootings in the Bronx ran on page 4 of the Dec. 4, 2009, issue. Knutt’s photo is attributed to Getty Images, which is not named as a defendant.
In a 2010 lawsuit demanding more than $1 million in damages, the family claimed that Metro arbitrarily selected a photo of a black child. Jayden, described as a choir member and student at a “well-regarded charter school” with no criminal record, says repeated confrontations about the article caused him to miss several days of school and a Christmas choir recital.
Brooklyn Supreme Court dismissed the Knutts’ defamation claim, but the appellate division’s second judicial department reversed.
“Here, the subject news article, considered as a whole, is reasonably susceptible of a defamatory connotation concerning the infant plaintiff and, thus, it is a question for the jury whether the ordinary and average reader would understand the meaning as such,” the unsigned opinion states.
“Affording the complaint a liberal construction, accepting all facts concerning Metro’s use of the infant plaintiff’s photograph in the subject article are true, and according the benefit of every possible favorable interest, the plaintiffs adequately alleged the element of gross irresponsibility,” the justices added.