Parents of Down syndrome man sue over viral picture - WKRN News 2

Parents of Down syndrome man sue over viral picture

Posted: Updated: April 29, 2013 4:12 PM
Photo courtesy of the US District Court Photo courtesy of the US District Court
Holland family attorney, Larry Crain Holland family attorney, Larry Crain

A Nashville family is suing a Florida radio station, an online sign generator company and a Minnesota man after a picture of their son with Down syndrome was altered and went viral.

The parents of Adam Holland, who has Down syndrome, filed an $18 million federal lawsuit for punitive and compensatory damages on the basis of invasion of privacy, defamation and violation of Tennessee's Personal Rights Protection Act.

The Hollands also want the defendants to stop distributing their son's picture and to take down all of the images they posted.

Holland's original picture was taken at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center in 2004, when he was 17-years-old.

Vanderbilt Kennedy Center is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

In the picture, Holland is holding a sign he made in support of the Tennessee Titans.

However, the picture has since been distributed without his parent's permission and altered to show various derogatory and sexual phrases.

In addition, the picture was used on a Tampa Bay, Florida radio Web site with the words "retarded news" and uploaded to a Web site that allows people to insert phrases on to the picture.

"He had become kind of the poster child for those who have a sick twisted view of children with this special disability," Holland family attorney Larry Crain said. "They were devastated that their son, who was so proud of this image he had drawn, had been so twisted by these individuals who were using it."

Russell LaLevee of Spring Park, Minnesota is also named in the suit after he allegedly posted the picture to his Flickr account with a sexually explicit phrase added to the photograph.

According to the lawsuit, LaLevee bragged about the image having more than 21,300 views in a period of 25 months.

He described the photo as "just a stupid photo of the sick retarded kid that lives down my street that my dogs hate."

"This family would like more than anything to see their son respected, for his dignity to be restored and this image taken off the Internet," Crain said. "Adam is a man who is happy with life generally. I don't think he fully appreciates the harm that's been done to him."

Crain said the defendants have 20 days to respond to the lawsuit filed on April 22.

Cox Media Group, owner of WHTP radio in Tampa Bay, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

"We are looking into this matter," Director of Communications Andy McDill said. "It's our company policy, however, not to comment on ongoing litigation."

Attempts to reach LaLevee were unsuccessful as were attempts to contact Dave Brown, owner of the sign generator.

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