Illinois recognizes a legal claim for publication of private facts. For the most part, the law in Illinois is similar to that described in the general page on publication of private facts. See that page for a full discussion of the elements of and defenses to a private facts claim. This page addresses only those aspects of Illinois law that are different from the general description.
Elements of a Private Facts Claim
In Illinois, the elements of a publications of private facts claim are: (1) publicity was given to private facts; (2) the facts were private and not public facts; and (3) the matter made public would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.
Illinois law does not impose liability for invasion of privacy when the invasion is deemed newsworthy or is a matter of legitimate public concern. Persons performing official duties for the government have no right of privacy as to information concerning discharge of those duties. Cassidy v. Am. Broad. Cos., 377 N.E.2d 126, 132 (1st. Dist. 1978). In addition, courts applying Illinois law have found the following things, among others, to be newsworthy:
- a newspaper article on the dangers of drugs that disclosed the identity of a teen who overdosed on drugs;
- a dramatization made by a publisher of a newspaper article describing the murder of a woman; and
- the broadcast of an undercover police officer in the performance of his official duties.
In contrast, an Illinois court has held that a jury reasonably could find that a photograph of a woman's dead son (killed by gunshot wound in a gang-related incident) and her statements to his expired corpse in a private hospital room were not of legitimate public concern, even though the general topic of gang violence was newsworthy. It reasoned that the jury could determine that the newspaper did not need the plaintiff's intimate statements to her son or his photograph to convey the human suffering behind gang violence. See Green v. Chicago Tribune, 675 N.E.2d 249 (Ill. App. Ct. 1996).
Relying on Public Documents
In Illinois, you generally cannot be held liable for publishing truthful information gleaned from public records which include, for example, criminal records and divorce decrees. The protection could apply to information obtained from other government records as well, both because of a potential constitutional privilege and because the information is already exposed to the public eye.
Illinois recognizes consent as a defense to a publication of private facts claim. Illinois courts may recognize verbal or implied consent, but it is advisable to get it in writing whenever possible. If getting written consent is not practical, you should record try to record verbal consent using an audio or video recording device. The age of majority in Illinois is eighteen; if you interview or photograph someone under the age of eighteen, you should seek consent from the subject's parent(s). See the general description for a more detailed discussion of release forms.