DALLAS (CN) - Parents whose son was killed in Iraq in 2007 say dating websites are hurting them again by using their handsome son's photo without permission to lure women to their websites.
Alan Burks and Jackie Hlastan, parents of the late Lt. Peter Burks, sued Plentyoffish Media dba Plentyoffish.com and True Beginnings LLC dba True.com in Dallas County Court. They seek punitive damages for intrusion on seclusion, misappropriation of their son's likeness, and violation of the Texas Property Code.
"Attempting to exploit Lt. Burks' good looks and strong jaw image for their own financial gain, defendants used his photo on their dating websites in multiple advertisements," the complaint states. "One ad included a photograph of Lt. Burks with a caption reading 'Military Man Searching For Love' 'Females Join Now Free!'
"Another ad used Lt. Burks' likeness as a draw, and exhorts: 'Soldiers WANT YOU!' Join HERE Now!'"
Lt. Burks was killed by an IED in November 2007.
His parents say: "On November 14, 2007, while leading his men back to their base at the end of patrol in Baghdad, a massive Iranian-made bomb blew up Lt. Burks' vehicle. Standing upright in the hatch to direct his unit, LL Burks was struck in the head by shrapnel and was killed. Two of his soldiers were also wounded. Plaintiffs inherited the ownership interest in their son's, Lt. Burks', name, voice, signature, photograph and likeness."
The complaint adds: "Defendants represent their dating sites are legitimate and safe places to meet real people who are genuine, sincere and legitimate. Instead they resort to false advertising.
"True's website brags on the fact that: 'True is the only online dating service and relationship site that conducts criminal background screenings in the U.S. and Single Certifications.'
"True also claims to be 'the only single dating service that screens for marrieds and felons.' True claims that it facilitates 'safer, smarter, more satisfying relationships.' True's site even states 'Warning: married people and criminals will be prosecuted.'
"Apparently, defendants do not screen for the deceased and use photos of people without permission, including a soldier who died in the line of duty, to fraudulently attract unsuspecting and unwary singles onto their websites. How many other photos of the deceased or fraudulent postings are defendants running to mislead the dating public? ...
"On its website, Plentyoffish states that 'anyone who is able to commit identity theft can also falsify a dating profile.' At the same time Plentyoffish is warning consumers about false dating profiles, Plentyoffish is running a false ad to attract unsuspecting singles to its website by using a dead person's photo.
"Defendants' misappropriation of Lt. Burks' likeness and/or name resulted in unfair, improper and excessive commercial exploitation of the value of Lt. Burks' likeness and/or name so as to result in a reduction of plaintiffs' property rights in Lt. Burks' likeness and/or name due to defendants' use of same.
"By and through the above-referenced false posting and communications, defendants not only confused and misled consumers, but also caused serious harm and damages to plaintiff. Making matters worse, defendants have made such false and/or misleading statements on their websites, which could be viewed throughout the United States and, indeed, the world."
In addition to punitive damages, the parents want the defendants enjoined from doing business in Texas if they refuse to satisfy any judgment reached in this case.
They are represented by Rogge Dunn and Gregory Clift, with Clouse Dunn.
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