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Posted: January 09, 2017

Woman sues Chipotle for $2.2 billion, claims the chain illegally used her photo

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 27: Chipotle restaurant workers fill orders for customers on the day that the company announced it will only use non-GMO ingredients in its food on April 27, 2015 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - APRIL 27: Chipotle restaurant workers fill orders for customers on the day that the company announced it will only use non-GMO ingredients in its food on April 27, 2015 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

By Beth Sawicki

SACRAMENTO, Calif. —

A California woman is suing Chipotle for more than $2.2 billion because she claims the chain used photographs of her for promotional purposes without her permission.

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In a lawsuit filed Dec. 20, Leah Caldwell says that in 2006, a photographer took pictures of her and a friend eating at a Chipotle restaurant near the University of Denver. According to KXTV, the photographer asked Caldwell to sign a release form for the pictures, but she refused.

Caldwell, who is representing herself in the action, said she saw a picture of herself on the wall of a Chipotle in Orlando, Florida, in 2014, then saw the same picture again in early 2015 at locations in Sacramento and Roseville, California. Caldwell also claims that Chipotle edited the photo to include beer bottles, which "put a false light upon her character associated with consuming alcoholic beverages."

"At each location, the plaintiff recognized the iconic picture, her distinct photographic image and likeness even with apparent editing," documents say. 

According to the complaint, use of the photo in advertisements by Chipotle began in 2006.

The lawsuit asks for $2,237,633,000, which is how much Caldwell estimates Chipotle profited from her picture between 2006 and 2015.

Caldwell is also seeking damages for commercial appropriation of the photograph and for invasion of privacy, according to The Wichita Eagle.

Chipotle does not comment on pending litigation.


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