Woman sues WTAE over photo misuse

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A Fayette County woman whose photo was mistakenly used in a WTAE-TV newscast is suing the local ABC affiliate.

"Her face was put on a news broadcast, and it wasn't her," said C.J. Engel, attorney for Kathy Bass, 49. "It was extremely embarrassing, and it was a continual process of her explaining 'it wasn't me,' and it was very hurtful to my client."

The suit, which recently was moved from the Court of Common Pleas to federal court, maintains the Hearst station defamed Ms. Bass "with reckless disregard for its truth or falsity" of the photo. It also maintains the station committed an invasion of privacy.

In August 2010, a then-21-year-old Uniontown woman named Kathy Ann Bass was arrested with her alleged co-conspirator, Victor Tarpley. Police say they kidnapped a man, holding him at gunpoint.

When WTAE-TV ran a news report of the arrest, it ran a photo of the wrong Kathy Bass.

Besides broadcasting her likeness on the air, the complaint states the segment is still available on the WTAE website, although a recent search failed to confirm this.

Her attorney said he did not know how WTAE obtained the photograph, but "I can tell you it was a file photo [of] my client from an arrest she had years ago."

On Wednesday, Mr. Engel requested the case be remanded to state court, "on the grounds that the federal court does not have subject matter jurisdiction." He is arguing that the "amount of controversy" is less than the federal threshold of $75,000.

It likely was moved to federal court because Ms. Bass is from Pennsylvania and Hearst's corporate operations are mainly in New York. It is unusual for a case to return to state court once it has been removed to federal court.

Ms. Bass seeks damages in excess of $25,000; in state court, anything less would send the case to arbitration.

Local and corporate counsel for Hearst could not be reached for comment.

region - neigh_east - tvradio

Maria Sciullo: msciullo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG.


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