How to Turn a $250 Job Into $15.6 Million

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Sue in L.A. County, that’s how. In the latest (relatively) monstrous verdict from that jurisdiction, an L.A. jury awarded Russell Christoff $15.6 million dollars for the unauthorized use of his face on Taster’s Choice jars for seven years. Christoff had been paid $250 for a photo shoot in 1986 but did not know Nestle had actually used his likeness until he saw himself on a jar in a drug store in 2002. “I looked at it and said, ‘expletive, that’s me!'” he recalled.

I hope he really does go around saying, “expletive!” but I bet he doesn’t.

Lawyers for Nestle claimed that a Canadian employee of the company had unknowingly pulled the photo, thinking they had consent to use it, and that Nestle USA had brought it back to the States in 1997. The amount of damages was likely the only issue in the case. Christoff was paid $250 and was promised $2000 if the image were used in Canada, as it eventually was. The company offered him $100,000 to settle, to which he countered with $8.5 million. The jury’s $15.6 million verdict apparently represents 5 percent of Nestle’s entire profits from Taster’s Choice while Christoff’s face was on the jars, which certainly seems like a reasonable valuation to me.

Oddly, Nestle’s lawyers said the company plans to appeal.

AP via