For sixteen years, Russell Christoff’s face had adorned the label on jars of Taster’s Choice coffee, first in Canada and later in the U.S., Mexico and countries as distant as Japan and Kuwait. But it wasn’t until 2002 that a surprised Christoff came face-to-face with his own picture on a coffee jar. He knew right away it was him. Trouble is, the Taster’s Choice people didn’t.
Christoff was a professional model until a couple of years ago, when he started teaching kindergarten. He remembered that his picture had been taken in 1986 by a photographer for Nestle, the maker of Taster’s Choice. He still had the contract, and he was supposed to have been paid $2,000 if his picture was used by the Canadian division of Nestle.
At first, for two years, Nestle reportedly denied the picture was of Christoff. But by the time the case went to trial, Nestle had stopped contesting it was his picture. He sued Nestle for using his likeness for commercial gain without his consent, one form of invasion of privacy.
Nestle offered to settle for $100,000. Christoff said no. He countered at $8.5 million. Nestle said no.What did the jury say? $15.6 million.