Indiana: False Light

Note: This page covers information specific to Indiana. For general information concerning false light see the general False Light section of this guide. 

Indiana recognizes the tort of "false light." Plaintiffs can sue for false light in certain circumstances when false information about them has been spread to others. Because Indiana courts have not heard many cases raising false light, it is unclear when exactly someone can sue for being placed in a false light.

The case of Mavity v. Tyndall, 66 N.E.2d 755 (Ind. 1946) established false light in Indiana. In that case, the police took a mug shot of a man they were investigating for a crime. Charges against him were eventually dropped. However, the police maintained a photo of the man in their "rouges' gallery." The man sued and was able to have his photo removed because the police were casting him in a false light, implying that he was guilty of a crime.

Elements of a False Light Claim

The exact elements of a false light claim -- that is, what must be proven for a plaintiff to win -- have not been established in Indiana. See St. John v. Town of Ellettsville, 46 F. Supp. 2d 834, 851 (S.D. Ind. 1999).

Some limited aspects of what must be proven for a false light claim are clear. It is clear that the plaintiff must prove, at least, that you have said something false. See Near E. Side Cmty. Org. v. Hair, 555 N.E.2d 1324, 1335 (Ind. Ct. App. 1990). It is also clear that the false statement must identify the plaintiff. For instance, in Furno v. Citizens Ins. Co. of Am., 590 N.E.2d 1137 (Ind. Ct. App. 1992), a statement about chiropractors in general was held not to specifically identify a particular chiropractor who was upset by the statement.

Other states require plaintiffs suing for false light to prove that the statement was offensive and that the statement was disclosed to the public. It is not clear if Indiana will employ these requirements as well. Many states also require plaintiffs to prove that the defendant acted with "actual malice", at least for more famous or prominent public figures. Again, Indiana courts have not yet said the level of fault they will require.

Privileges and Defenses

If you are sued for false light, you may have several defenses that will protect you, even if the plaintiff has an otherwise winning case. See the section on Defamation Privileges and Defenses for a general discussion of potential defenses.

For instance, opinions are constitutionally protected; a false light claim must be based on the implication of a false fact. Other defenses may be available, but Indiana courts have not yet said what they are.

 

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Last updated on July 30th, 2008

   
 
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