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Joe Dickerson & Associates, LLC v. Dittmar

Colorado Supreme Court
34 P.3d 995 (Colo. 2001)


Facts

Joe Dickerson (defendant) published an article in his business’s newsletter that identified Rosanne Marie Dittmar (plaintiff) as a thief of bearer bonds. Dittmar had been convicted of the crime and the article described the investigation of Dittmar and her conviction. The article used Dittmar’s name and picture. Dickerson’s newsletter was available free of charge, but its distribution helped his private investigation firm’s business. Dittmar brought suit, claiming an invasion of privacy by appropriation of another’s name or likeness. The tort was not previously recognized in Colorado. The trial court recognized the tort for the first time in Colorado, but granted Dickerson’s motion for summary judgment because Dittmar did not establish that her name and likeness had any value (an element commonly required in the tort across the country). The court of appeals reversed, agreeing with the establishment of the tort in Colorado, but holding that material issues of fact existed about various elements of the tort. Dickerson petitioned the Supreme Court of Colorado on three grounds: (1) whether invasion of privacy by appropriation of another’s name or likeness was cognizable in Colorado; (2) if so, whether such a claim required that the plaintiff’s name and likeness have some value; and (3) whether his article was protected speech under the First Amendment. Dittmar argued that Dickerson’s article was not protected because it was commercial speech.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Bender, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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