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Physical altercations were regular occurrences on MTV’s Jersey Shore, a reality television show that followed a group of eight young people sharing a beach house in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. On February 22, 2010, Ocean County Superior Court Judge Joseph L. Foster denied an injunction of the scheduled February 23 DVD release of the first season of Jersey Shore. So what was the situation that threatened the highly anticipated DVD release? Stephen Izzo, Jr., the victim of cast-member Ronnie Ortiz-Magro’s infamous “one shot” petitioned the court to block the release of the DVD box set.
Specifically, Eugene M. Lavergne, Izzo’s attorney, sought to prohibit any further dissemination of two Jersey Shore episodes. The contested episodes contain a scene depicting a violent encounter between Ortiz-Magro and Izzo which left Izzo unconscious and face down on a brick sidewalk outside of Seaside Heights nightspot Karma Nightclub. Lavergne argued release of the DVD box set would violate Izzo’s privacy and MTV would unlawfully profit off of Izzo by using his face and likeness without his permission. The petition for injunction also asserted that releasing the DVD box set would allow everyone involved in Jersey Shore’s production to profit off Ortiz-Magro’s alleged criminal act, which, according to Lavergne, is against the law. Lavergne further claimed the disputed episodes show scenes that MTV edited out of context resulting in a false portrayal of Izzo as an aggressor. Notably, in September, Ortiz-Magro was arrested by police and charged with aggravated assault. Izzo claims that MTV orchestrated, and had the ability to prevent, Ortiz’s actions.
As for the February 22 injunction ruling, Judge Foster reasoned that MTV sufficiently blurred Izzo’s face in the incident. Specifically, Judge Foster opined that Izzo “failed to demonstrate any financial or irreparable harm” that would be caused by the DVD release and that a “reasonable observer . . . would be hard-pressed to identify the plaintiff other than a Caucasian male of a similar age.” In response, Izzo told reporters he found the judge’s ruling laughable, saying, “Everybody knew it was me. My tattoos are clear (in the TV footage).”
Jersey Shore fans should not fist pump to this minor victory quite yet. Last week, Lavergne filed an additional lawsuit on Izzo’s behalf seeking unspecified damages against Ortiz-Magro, MTV, Viacom International (MTV’s parent company), various producers and unnamed directors of the show, camera operators and bodyguards associated with the show, and Karma Nightclub. Judge Foster has yet to rule on whether Izzo’s lawsuit, which also seeks to prevent Ortiz-Magro from collecting further earnings for his participation on Jersey Shore, can go forward. The defendants have not yet filed a response to Izzo’s claims. Michael Roe, the attorney allegedly representing MTV, would not comment on the civil lawsuit when he was reached by telephone on Friday. The next hearing in Izzo’s civil complaint is scheduled for March 19. At that hearing, MTV will be asked to argue why Judge Foster should not issue an injunction prohibiting further airing or dissemination of Jersey Shore episodes containing this specific violent scene.
– Laura Robinson
Tagged with: advertising • assault • career • celebrities • contracts • courts • criminal law • entertainment • film/television • financial • government • injunction • intellectual property • Jersey Shore • JETLaw • karma nightclub • lawsuits • MTV • privacy • publicity rights • ronnie • stephen izzo
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