Jay Leno has won a round in court with a ruling that comedy deserves a break. A state appeals court ruled that a lower court should have dismissed a lawsuit that a woman filed against the "Tonight Show" host and NBC.
The lawsuit by Claire Walter, 40, of Irondequoit, claimed Leno violated the state's Civil Rights Law by commercially using an unflattering photo of her in an on-air joke without her permission in 2003. The photo was taken for internal use at her former employer, Dorschel Automotive Group Inc.
According to the lawsuit, Leno said "a customer would not want to have their car serviced by someone like Ms. Walter. There were comments about (the) plaintiff being scary looking, being big."
The appeals court cited an exception to the law regarding use of photos for comedic purposes.
Walter's lawyer protested the ruling.
"Just because you're a comic doesn't give you the right to take someone who is an obscure person and make fun of the way someone looks," attorney Nira Kermisch said.
Christopher Thomas, a Rochester attorney representing Leno and NBC, declined to comment.