Monday, June 7, 2021

A Legal Battle: "Porsche Girl" + Photos Gone Viral


Nikki Catsouras 
March 4 1988 - October 31, 2006

Nikki was a high school senior from California who loved photography.  Ironically, it was photos that memorialized her forever (and made her posthumously known in pop culture as "Porsche Girl").   On Halloween afternoon in 2006, Nikki took her father's Porsche (without permission and without any experience driving it) after an argument over her smoking in the house.  This was the Porsche 911 Carerra that could go from 0 to 60 in 4 seconds.  She was last seen speeding down the highway going 100 mph when she clipped a vehicle sending her over the median crashing into an unmanned toll booth, nearly decapitating her.  You can just imagine the grisly scene of this accident.

Compounding the tragedy of that day, authorities prevented the family from seeing Nikki's remains stating that viewing her body would be too traumatizing and that she was too unrecognizable.  The California Highway Patrol investigators took photos at the accident scene per normal protocol.  These photos were never supposed to be shared.  However, one detective sent the photos to a personal email address while another sent them to a few friends.   After the photos were leaked, they went viral.  

The Catsouras family became victim to vicious and unwarranted cyber bullying.  Nikki's father was continually tormented and by strangers emailing gruesome photos.  He would receive emails to find his daughter's mangled disfigured body slumped in his crashed Porsche entitled "Woohoo Daddy, I'm still alive!"  One cyber bully set up a Myspace account where comments were made like: "that spoiled rich girl deserved it," "stupid bitch," and "what a waste of a Porsche  Finally, the Catsouras family made the decision to homeschool their high school daughter and completely go offline. It turns my stomach to know people (psychopaths) are so cruel and just plain evil.

I'm sure you've all heard of Reputation Defender.  I called them out of curiosity to get their rates.  Only wealthy people can really afford them as they start at $10k to help remove photos, articles, or anything "damaging" from the internet.  Mr. Catsouras hired them to remove all of the grisly photos of Nikki's death scene.  But, to no avail, you can still find these photos easily on the internet.  And, you don't have to be a skilled researcher to find them.  I'm not sure if Reputation Defender has a money back guarantee, but they should in this case.

DISCLAIMER: We are all naturally curious to the macabre.  If you're not, you're not being honest with yourself.  If you have a faint heart or a weak stomach, I recommend NOT viewing these photos.  I saw them and they are the worst accident photos I've ever seen.

Ending a 4.5 year court battle, the Catsouras Family won $2.4 million in damages in a lawsuit.  The family originally sought $20 million in damages.  The family also received a letter of apology from the California Highway Patrol.

Me at Nikki's final resting place, a space in a community mausoleum in Pacific View Memorial Park located in 
Newport Beach, California...

While no amount of money could ever compensate for the immense amount of suffering the Catsouras family has endured, the payout did shed light on privacy rights and hopefully provided at least some closure for this family.  For any legal eagles out there (like me), this lawsuit rewrote California law concerning the privacy rights of surviving family members concerning death photos of a decedent.  Prior to the Catsouras family's case, a family had no privacy rights when it came to images/pictorial or written media portrayal or discussing the life of a decedent.  A silver lining?

Her death prompted debates in:
Protecting the legacy of a loved one
A family's right to privacy

Thanks for stopping in!
I hope you have a successful week and get a lot of hugs this week from your friends and family (except at work, as I think it might go against sexual harassment policy).



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