Judge: Embarrassed ex-Colts Neck student has no claim in yearbook case

Said revealing photo caused trauma

Posted by the Asbury Park Press

The Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court has tossed out a 2002 lawsuit filed by a Colts Neck High School student who sued almost everyone he could because his private parts were partially visible in a high school yearbook photo.

In his original complaint, Tyler Bennett, then a junior and a member of the Colts Neck High School basketball team, stated that because he did not wear an athletic supporter under his basketball shorts, his genitals were partially visible in a photo published in the school’s 2002 yearbook.

When the picture was first noticed by a student, the school took immediate action, halting the distribution of remaining yearbooks and demanding a "recall" of yearbooks that had already been issued so the picture could be cut out. To this day, no copies of the photo exist save for an original version of the yearbook kept for legal purposes, said Board of Education Member BonnieSue Rosenwald.

Regardless, Bennett, 22, sued the entire Freehold Regional Board of Education, superintendent James Wasser, the principal and vice principal of Colts Neck High School, teacher Deena Clark, yearbook advisor Al Sinclair, the publishing company that put out the yearbook and several fellow students who worked on the yearbook.

According to his lawsuit, Bennett stated that he suffered from emotional distress due to the picture and that "the publication of a photograph of the genitalia of someone who did not consent to that publication is an invasion of that person’s privacy, even if that person was in a public area when the photograph was taken."

The Appellate Court disagreed, ruling on June 23 that all of Bennett’s claims are "without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion." The decision upholds an earlier ruling made against Bennett in 2004 in Superior Court in Monmouth County.

In a brief comment added to the case file, the court stated there was no evidence that anyone named in the lawsuit acted with malice toward Bennett. The court also rejected claims that Bennett suffered from serious emotional distress, as he never sought professional counseling.

"While he skipped the last few days of school after the yearbook was distributed, he returned to school the next year and continued playing basketball," the court states in its comment.

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