USDC WD Kentucky, June 6, 2011

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  • District court declines to dismiss claims for invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence against television network brought by man featured on television series To Catch a Predator.

Plaintiff, a prison inmate, filed a pro se lawsuit against NBC Universal, asserting a variety of state-law tort claims and a federal civil rights claim relating to his appearance on the NBC show To Catch a Predator.

According to Plaintiff, he struck up an online conversation with someone he thought to be an underage girl, who invited him to a house in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Plaintiff initially declined the invitation, but eventually agreed to meet “her.” When Plaintiff arrived at the house, police placed him under arrest. NBC was waiting at the sting house along with the police, and aired video of the arrest on To Catch a Predator, and – according to Plaintiff – also posted to the Internet conversations Plaintiff had with the “underage girl.”

Based on other courts having allowed similar claims to proceed, and specifically that a court had allowed similar claims with respect to the series To Catch a Predator, the court held that plaintiff’s state-law claims of invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence could proceed, although the court did not opine on the strength of these claims. The court dismissed the federal civil rights claim brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 because the statute of limitations had expired. Plaintiff’s final claim was for “violation of the Journalistic Code of Ethics.” The Court stated that it was not aware of any cognizable federal or state claim for such a violation, and dismissed this claim also.