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"Porsche girl" lawsuit update

In 2010, we reported:

Within fifteen minutes of 18-year-old Nikki Catsouras stealing her father's Porsche, she (perhaps under the influence of cocaine) decapitated herself when she smashed into a California State Route 241 tollbooth at 100 mph. Two California Highway Patrol officers released some of the accident photos (as they often do to emphasize the horrific consequences of unsafe driving), some Internet ghouls were less than polite about them, and now Catsouras's wealthy family wants $20 million from California taxpayers for the release of the public records—and a California appellate court has permitted the case to proceed. The Catsourases apparently have excellent public relations, because the media is unceasingly sympathetic to their suit (failing to distinguish between California's actions and the anonymous Internet abusers' actions), even as the Streisand effect has resulted in far more dissemination of the gruesome photos (NSFW).

Now, the California Highway Patrol has settled with the Catsouras family for $2.37 million, a pretty wealth transfer from middle-class taxpayers to a family that could afford multiple Porsches. And again, the media makes no mention of the free-speech implications of citizens being able to sue taxpayers over the release of public records. [LA Times] The huge sum is about what the family could have recovered if CHP was actually responsible for Catsouras's death.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.