A Niles man who says his image was printed on posters without his consent is seeking millions of dollars in damages from companies that include Walmart and Amazon.com.
An attorney for Nicholas Giovannelli filed a lawsuit this month in Cook County Circuit Court, alleging that he suffered emotional distress after recently learning that photographs taken of him during his U.S. Army service in Afghanistan were being sold as posters for profit.
The lawsuit states that the companies failed to take the necessary steps to obtain Giovannelli’s consent to feature his image in the products. It alleges that the sale of the images has caused Giovannelli to “suffer extreme emotional distress,” including the exacerbation of an existing post-traumatic stress disorder.
According to the lawsuit, the photos were taken of Giovannelli by U.S. Army photographers while he was serving in combat.
In an online press conference, Giovannelli’s attorney Craig Tobin said while Giovannelli had no issue with the Army taking photos of him, neither he nor the military expected that “corporations would take those photographs offline and use them for their benefit.”
Giovannelli referred questions to his attorney.
“We want to make sure the exploitation of these soldiers stops and if there are profits and benefits these corporations engaged in, that those be given to the rightful owners of these images: The people like young Nick,” Tobin said.
Giovannelli sustained serious injuries during military service and was “medically retired” from the military due to these injuries, which include PTSD, Tobin said.
The lawsuit seeks more than $1 million in damages from each of the defendants, plus all profits made from the sale of the posters.
Tobin said Giovannelli is also seeking an end to the sales of the products.
Tobin insisted that the images in the posters are “owned” by his client because he is the person in the photograph, but added that the photos themselves are “probably owned” by the United States Army. The Army is not a party to the suit.
Randy Hargrove, a spokesman for Walmart, said the company had not yet reviewed the lawsuit.
“Once we are served, we will respond as appropriate with the court,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Amazon.com said the company would not be commenting on the suit.
Attempts to reach representatives from the other companies named in the lawsuit were unsuccessful.
Tobin said he was aware of other service members whose images have also been featured on products without their consent.
Giovannelli was recognized for his military service by the Niles Village Board in 2015.
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