Sleeping Fan Sues New York Yankees, MLB, ESPN for Defamation

Andrew Rector proved today that you really can sue anyone – even MLB, ESPN or the New York Yankees – for just about anything.


Clients often call and say, “can this person sue me for defamation if I [fill in the blank].” As I always say, and as this case illustrates, anyone can sue anybody for anything. The question is, can they do so successfully? Here, a sleeping baseball fan by the name of Andrew Rector is suing for the comments made by the sportscasters when the camera captured him napping.

Can he sue for defamation? Well, there is absolutely no basis for a legal action here, but yes he could type up a complaint and file it with the court. But will he be successful? The answer here will be, no. A ridiculous and frivolous suit. Defamation requires a verifiably false statement that would cause one to be shunned by society. The sportscasters did not make even one negative comment about Rector.

“But what about using his image without permission?” some will ask.

This question illustrates an interesting phenomenon, whereby people live their lives witnessing some reality, yet cannot apply what they have seen and know. In every television newscast we see people being filmed, often in a very unflattering light, such as when they are doing the “perp walk” after being arrested. Do the people who ask this question think that the network ran around getting signed waivers from everyone who appeared on camera?

One does not have a right of privacy if filmed out in public. If you are allowing yourself to be seen, you are allowing yourself to be recorded.

Of course there are limitations, based on a reasonable expectation of privacy. A pervert can’t hold his phone over a bathroom stall and claim it was ok because the person was using a public restroom.

And California recognizes what is called a “right of publicity,” meaning that one can’t record you and then use that recording for profit. If the MLB started a campaign to advertise that their stadiums are a great place to sleep, and used Rector’s image to promote the campaign, he might have a valid right of publicity claim.

But this matter really just came down to Rector being embarrassed that the sportscasters commented on his nap. He was probably teased about it at work for a few days. That is not a basis for legal action.

[UPDATE:] My prediction was correct. As reported by the New York Daily News, the court threw out (or should I say, put to sleep?) Rector’s ridiculous legal action.

Here is the video of the incident in question, which resulted in the unsuccessful legal action:

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Aaron Morris
Morris & Stone, LLP
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