Woman sues Chipotle for $2 billion over use of photo in promo materials

Chipotle is facing another hefty lawsuit, but this time it's not really about the food.

A California woman is suing the Mexican Grill for $2 billion, and has accused the chain of using a photo of her dining at the restaurant in several promotional materials-- without obtaining her consent.

Leah Caldwell, of Sacramento, Calif. says she was dining at a Denver-area Chipotle in 2006 when photographer Steve Adams snapped a photo of her enjoying a meal. The photo was taken without the customer's knowledge and, according to the compaint, Adams later asked Caldwell to sign a release form as she left the restaurant, but Caldwell refused.


The lawsuit, first filed in U.S. District Court in California and later transferred to the U.S. District Court in Colorado, names both Chipotle founder and CEO Steve Ells and the photographer Steve Adams as defendants, reports Denver 7.

Since 2006, Caldwell claims she has seen her likeness represented in Chipotle marketing material on several occasions. She says she first saw the photo back in Dec. 2014 at a Chipotle restaurant in Orlando and again in March 2015 at two different Chipotle restaurants in the Sacramento Area.

The suit states that Chipotle bought the photo from Adams without checking to see if the photographer had obtained rights from the subject.  The complaint also says that the photo of Caldwell dining at Chipotle in 2006 had been edited so that alcoholic beverages were digitally added to the image to near her meal.


The plaintiff still claims she had no knowledge of the photo being taken a decade ago, but she acknowledges that Caldwell was asked to sign a release, which she declined.

Caldwell is seeking a grand total of $2,237,633,000-- the amount of money the suit claims Chipotle has made from the use of the photo between 2006 and 2015. Once Chipotle 2016 profits are made public, the suit is calling for that amount to be added to the total.

A Chipotle spokesman told Denver 7 that the company does not comment on pending legal cases.