Altered Down syndrome student's picture prompts $18M lawsuit - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Altered Down syndrome student's picture prompts $18M lawsuit

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

A smiling moment for a Middle Tennessee family has turned into a multi-million dollar lawsuit.

The picture of a man with Down syndrome taken in 2004 was repeatedly altered and posted online, prompting the lawsuit.

In the picture, Adam Holland is smiling big for the camera. The picture shows Holland and a picture he drew during for an art class at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center.

The class was for those with developmental disabilities.

"He's a very likable, very presentable young man who I don't think fully appreciates the hurt that's been inflicted on him," said Holland's attorney Larry Crain.

Holland was 19 when he proudly held up his work of art.  The picture was posted to the web but nearly a decade later it has become something else.

"It was devastating for this family emotionally," said Crain.

The Hollands' attorney, Larry Crain, said they found that the picture of their son had been altered many times with false and defamatory messages.

"They know now there are three users of this photograph. The trouble now, it's been so prolific it's being found on web sites ever abroad and England," said Crain.

Crain said the Hollands found one of those images on a Florida radio station web site.

Another was on a Flickr web site was posted by a realtor in the Minneapolis area.

Crain said some of the other images they found were so derogatory he couldn't even include them in the lawsuit.

"What was done here was done maliciously, at least on the part of some of those defendants, ascribing and using expletives and derogatory statements that degrade and dehumanize this young man," said Crain.

The lawsuit being filed by the family is for $18 million, but Crain hopes this lawsuit will help others in the future.

"We hope that it will change the law, make it tougher, put more penalties in place for those who use unauthorized images of other people," said Crain.

The director of communication at the Cox Media radio station named in the lawsuit said the company is looking into the matter. They said it's their policy not to comment on ongoing litigation.

Due to Holland's disability, the statue of limitations on the case doesn't apply.

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