Invasion of Privacy – A Multi-Faceted Tort

 

Previously I posted on drones and privacy. This post will address invasion of privacy more generally. Invasion of privacy is a very broad topic. Indeed, invasion of privacy can be a criminal offense in Pennsylvania. However, I will be addressing invasion of privacy as a tort, i.e. a civil wrong. In fact, invasion of privacy encompasses 4 separate torts: 1. Intrusion Upon Seclusion 2. Appropriation of Name or Likeness 3. Publicity Given to Private Life, and 4. Publicity Placing Person in False Light.

Intrusion Upon Seclusion

One who intentionally intrudes, physically or otherwise, upon the solitude or seclusion of another or his private affairs or concerns, is subject to liability to the other for invasion of his privacy, if the intrusion would be highly offensive to a reasonable person. Restatement (Second) of Torts § 652B.

An action pursuant to this section does not depend upon any publicity given to the person whose interest is invaded or to his affairs…The invasion may be (1) by physical intrusion into a place where the plaintiff has secluded himself, (2) by use of the defendant’s senses to oversee or overhear the plaintiff’s private affairs, or (3) some other form of investigation or examination into plaintiff’s private concerns…

The defendant is subject to liability under this section only when he has intruded into a private place, or has otherwise invaded a private seclusion that the plaintiff has thrown about his person or affairs…There is also no liability unless the interference with the plaintiff’s seclusion is substantial and would be highly offensive to the ordinary reasonable person…
[T]his cause of action also requires that the plaintiff have a reasonable expectation of privacy.” … Finally, a tortious invasion of privacy must ” cause mental suffering, shame or humiliation to a person of ordinary sensibilities…

As set forth above, intrusion upon seclusion can occur under three situations: (1) by physical intrusion into a place where the plaintiff has secluded himself, (2) by use of the defendant’s senses to oversee or overhear the plaintiff’s private affairs, or (3) some other form of investigation or examination into plaintiff’s private concerns…

Tagouma v. Investigative Consultant Services, Inc., 2006 CV 1532 (Dauphin CCP 2009)

Appropriation of Name or Likeness

One who appropriates to his own use or benefit the name or likeness of another is subject to liability to the other for invasion of privacy. Restatement 2nd of Torts 652C

An example of this would be a business using a photograph of you without your permission in advertising their product or service.

Publicity Given to Private Life

One who gives publicity to a matter concerning the private life of another is subject to liability to the other for invasion of privacy, if the matter publicized is of a kind that (a) would be highly offensive to a reasonable person, and (b) is not of legitimate concern to the public…The publicity element requires that the private information be “made public, by communicating it to the public at large, or to so many persons that the matter must be regarded as substantially certain to become one of public knowledge.”

Hahn v. Loch, 2984 EDA 2014 (Pa. Super. 2016)

Publicity Placing Person in False Light

One who gives publicity to a matter concerning another that places the other before the public in a false light is subject to liability to the other for invasion of his privacy, if (a) the false light in which the other was placed would be highly offensive to a reasonable person, and (b) the actor had knowledge of or acted in reckless disregard as to the falsity of the publicized matter and the false light in which the other would be placed. Restatement (Second) of Torts § 652E.

Under this section, “publicity” means “the matter is made public, by communicating it to the public at large, or to so many persons that the matter must be regarded as substantially certain to become one of public knowledge.”…”Thus, it is not an invasion of the right of privacy…to communicate a fact concerning the plaintiff’s private life to a single person or even to a small group of persons. The plaintiff must also establish the publicity given to him is such that a reasonable person would feel seriously aggrieved by it. Furthermore, the publication must be false. The publication must also be a major misrepresentation of a person’s character, history, activities, or beliefs which could cause a reasonable person to take serious offense.

Lapinski v. Poling, 250 WDA 2016 (Pa. Super. 2017)

If your privacy has been invaded and you seek redress, you may telephone me at 814-283-5788 to discuss the situation. There will be no charge for your initial consultation.

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