Wyoming History: Miss Wyoming Wins Lawsuit Against Penthouse Magazine
Next month marks the 35th anniversary of Wyoming's wildest court case. February 20, 1981, a jury awarded over $26 million in damages to former Miss Wyoming Kimerli Jayne Pring after she was libeled by Penthouse Magazine.
Pring, who won the Miss Wyoming pageant in 1978, filed suit after Penthouse published a story in their August 1979 issue detailing the sexual exploits of a fictional character identified as "Miss Wyoming".
Her attorney, legendary Jackson based lawyer Gerry Spence, argued that the lewd story undermined "decent traditional American institutions.'' Lawyers for Penthouse argued that Pring wasn't specifically identified in, and therefore couldn't have been harmed by, the fictitious account.
The jury sided with Pring, ruling that Penthouse publishers had acted with "reckless disregard" for the truth. At the time, the $26.5 million judgement was the largest libel award ever recorded.
Sadly, Pring would never collect a dollar. Penthouse appealed the ruling and it was later overturned by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.