Intrusion law in Pennsylvania does not differ signicantly from the law described in the General Elements of an Intrusion Claim section of this guide. See Harris v. Easton Pub. Co., 483 A.2d 1377 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1984). As result, you should follow the general advice outlined in the section on Practical Tips for Avoiding Liability When Gathering Private Information.
However, persistent "hounding, harassment and unreasonable surveillance" may constitute intrusion in certain circumstances, even if conducted in a public or semi-public place. See Wolfson v. Lewis, 924 F.Supp. 1413 (E.D. Pa. 1996).
Other Potential Bases for Liability
You should also be aware that Pennsylvania also has criminal anti-harassment law, see 18 PA C.S.A. 2709, and an anti-stalking law, see 18 PA C.S.A. 2709.1. Under these laws, following a person under circumstances demonstrating an intent to cause substantial emotional distress could result in criminal liability.
Practical Tips for Avoiding Liability When Gathering Private Information
While you can't always eliminate your legal risks when gathering news or information, there are a number of ways you can minimize your risk of being on the receiving end of an intrusion lawsuit. See the section on Practical Tips for Avoiding Liability When Gathering Private Information for general advice on minimizing your risks. In Pennsylvania, you should also consider:
- Whether your reporting is in the public interest. In at least one case, in determining whether a matter was private a Pennsylvania court noted that "[w]here the information that is reported pertains to the public interest as well as a party's private interest, there is a balance to be drawn between that individual's right of privacy and dissemination of information pertaining to the public interest." Pierog v. The Morning Call, Inc., 24 Media L. Rep. 1218 (C.P. Lehigh 1995). If your newsgathering is in the public interest, it will make it more difficult for the plaintiff to prove that your conduct was highly offensive to a reasonable person.
- Be wary of "ride-alongs." While no case in Pennsylvania has directly addressed liability for media invited to accompany police or other government officials, a federal district court refused to dismiss a claim against officers who brought reporters with them while conducting a search of a home. See Hagler v. Philadelphia Newspapers, Inc., 24 Media L. Rep. 2332 (E.D.Pa. 1996).