USA: Man Sues Site Over Autopsy Photos

Filed at 4:09 p.m. ET
BUNNELL, Fla. (AP) --

A Web site that posted graphic autopsy photos of a NASCAR racer killed in a crash at Daytona International Speedway in 1994 is being sued by the driver's father.

The lawsuit filed in Flagler County Circuit Court could eventually force Michael Uribe, the president of a DeLand-based Web site, to remove the photos and pay punitive damages to the family of Rodney Orr.

``He had no business putting that out on the Internet,'' said Beacher Orr, a 62-year-old Palm Coast resident.

In March, the Legislature passed a bill barring public access to all autopsy photos unless a judge approves the release. The law was prompted by public outcry over media outlets' desire for access to the photos of racing legend Dale Earnhardt, who was killed during the Daytona 500 in February.

The day before the bill was passed, Uribe published 38 graphic autopsy photos of Orr either naked or in bloodied racing gear. Uribe also published 48 pictures of veteran driver Neil Bonnett. The two drivers were killed within three days of each other during practice sessions for the Daytona 500 in 1994.

Days after the posting, the company hosting Uribe's Web site and several of his advertisers bailed out. Uribe said he later found another company to host his Web site.

Around that time, Beacher Orr sued. In the lawsuit filed in March, Orr's attorneys say the posting ``exceeds any reasonable person's standard of what is objectionable.'' Further, Uribe's intentions were to ``titillate'' visitors for ``entertainment, amusement or profit,'' the suit states.

``We clearly want those photos taken down,'' said Paul Katz, Orr's attorney. ``Whether we will be seeking punitive damages is something we will have to decide when we get there.''

But Uribe said the Orr lawsuit isn't self-motivated and contends there's a conspiracy involving NASCAR. Labeling the suit a ``publicity stunt,'' Uribe believes attorneys for NASCAR and Dale Earnhardt's widow prompted the litigation.

To bolster his claims, Uribe pointed to a witness list prepared by Earnhardt attorneys for a hearing next month on a new records law and a circuit court judge's decision to seal Earnhardt's autopsy photos. The witness list includes an affidavit from Beacher Orr and Rodney Orr's widow, Crystal.

Katz denied Uribe's claims, saying attorneys for NASCAR and the Earnhardts never asked him to sue. Earnhardt attorney Skip Eubanks, who helped prepare the witness list, said he didn't know the Orr suit was filed.

``It does not surprise me though, given the outrageous conduct of posting them on the Web,'' Eubanks said.

A message left for NASCAR spokesman John Griffin was not immediately returned Thursday.