Benoit Family Suit Against Hustler Dismissed

Tod Hunter
ATLANTA — a lawsuit filed against Hustler Magazine by the family of the late Nancy Benoit has been dismissed by a U.S. District Court.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Thrash ruled that photographer Mark Samansky did not violate the privacy of Benoit, a former professional wrestling personality who was killed by her husband, wrestler Chris Benoit, in late June 2007. Chris Benoit also killed the couple's 7-year-old son at the family’s Fayetetteville, Ga., home before taking his own life.

Maureen Toffoloni, Nancy’s Benoit’s mother and the administrator of her estate, had sought punitive damages from Hustler after it published nude photos Samansky took of her daughter in 1983 in its March 2008 issue.

Toffoloni's suit contended that Nancy Benoit never gave permission for the photos to be used for a “pornographic” magazine whose content includes “graphic and sexual photographs of nude women.”

James Daus, who was Benoit's husband at the time, testified in an affidavit that he had been present when his wife, then an aspiring model, posed for still photographs and a videotape in the summer of 1983.

Thrash sided with Hustler when it cited freedom of the press and called Nancy Benoit’s death “a legitimate matter of public interest and concern."

Thrash also wrote in his opinion, “The fact that the Court personally views publication of the photographs to be offensive and distasteful is not determinative.”

The Toffoloni family, who live in Daytona Beach, Fla., are still considering a wrongful-death suit against World Wrestling Entertainment, which employed Chris Benoit at the time of his death.