A company hired by an upscale gentleman’s club in West Los Angeles wrongfully used the images of four female models to promote the establishment on social media without the women’s permission or paying them in 2015-16, an attorney told a jury Tuesday.
Lawyer Zachary Page gave his opening statement to a Los Angeles Superior Court panel hearing trial of Timed Out’s lawsuit against Prisma Entertainment LLC, owners of the Plan B club. Page said a social media strategy and publicity firm, Chippewa, was acting as an agent of Prisma when it used the women’s images, thereby depriving the plaintiffs of their ability to “control their careers.”
However, Prisma attorney John T. Griffin said his client did not know that Chippewa was using the images of any models against their wishes. He said the key questions in the trial will be whether it was wrong for the models’ images to be posted and, if so, what is the fair market value of their images.
Two months after Timed Out filed suit in June 2017, Prisma filed a cross-complaint against Chippewa, seeking reimbursement for any damages Prisma may have to pay. Judge Gregory Keosian told jurors before opening statements Tuesday that the cross-complaint was resolved before trial, as were the claims of models Kimberly Cozzens and Ursula Mayes.
The remaining four models seeking damages are Jessica Charm Killings, Kristina Chai, Leanna Decker and Katarina Van Derham. They are seeking damages through the plaintiff, Timed Out, which acquires and pursues claims for rights-of-publicity violations by third parties.
Plan B describes itself on its website as “L.A.’s Ultimate Cocktail Lounge.” The Pico Boulevard club is the location of wet T-shirt and whipped cream wrestling events, according to Page, who said the models’ images were used on the club’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
“The models had nothing to do with the club,” Page said. “There is no excuse for the theft of the models’ images.”
Griffin said Plan B had sought a more active social media presence. He said Timed Out and its president, Peter Hamm Jr., will receive one-third of whatever damages the models may recover during the trial.
Van Derham has appeared on “CSI” and was the 2009 model for St. Pauli Girl beer, a top-selling German beer in the United States.
Killings has millions of social media followers, according to Page.
Van Derham, the trial’s first witness, said she found out that Plan B had allegedly used her photo in club promotions when she saw it on Facebook. She said the image used was one of many that she and her husband had shot during a trip to the Mojave Desert in 2011 and later sold to M! magazine, a Danish publication that Griffin told jurors caters to men.
Van Derham said she was familiar with Plan B because she used to live near the establishment. She said she did not consent to the business using her photos in their promotions and called the Mojave Desert image “something precious to me” when her husband took the photos.
“I don’t associate myself with establishments such as Plan B,” Van Derham said. “They’re very well-known in this town.”
Van Derham said she saw “five sexy butts” and “girls on a stripper pole” when she looked at Plan B’s website.
“I think it’s clear to me what they do,” said Van Derham, who added, “I don’t even let my husband go there.”
She said it would cost the club less to use photos of their own employees to promote the club instead of the images of others.
“Obviously they don’t see much value in their own staff,” she said.
Van Derham said women who consider posing for a business like Plan B had better be paid well because the backlash could be so fierce they may never work in the modeling business again.
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