Whether Indiana recognizes a legal claim for publication of private facts is unsettled. Before 1997, Indiana's lower courts recognized a such a claim. But, in Doe v. Methodist Hosp., 690 N.E.2d 681 (Ind. 1997), two Justices of the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that Indiana law did not recognize a legal claim for publication of private facts, while three other Justices agreed with the result in the case but not with their reasoning. Later courts have disagreed on whether this claim still exists in Indiana.
To the extent that Indiana law still recognizes a publication of private facts claim, it is generally 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 Indiana law that are different from the general description.
Elements of a Private Facts Claim
If Indiana still recognizes a private facts claim, the elements are: (1) a public disclosure of private information concerning the plaintiff that would be highly offensive and objectionable to a reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities; (2) to persons who have no legitimate interest in the information; (3) in a manner that is coercive and oppressive.
Indiana law does not impose liability for publication of facts that are of legitimate public interest. Nobles v. Cartwright, 659 N.E.2d 1064, 1073 (Ind. Ct. App. 1995). Courts applying Indiana law have found the following things to be of legitimate public interest (i.e., newsworthy):
- a suspected arsonist's loan status disclosed by a bank to an arson investigator;
- debts owed by the employees of a company disclosed by a creditor to the employer; and
- the details of an extramarital affair related to a sexual harassment claim against agents of the State Lottery Commission of Indiana made public by the media.
Relying on Public Records
In Indiana, you generally cannot be held liable for publishing truthful information gathered from government records that are open to public inspection, but there is little case law on this subject. This protection applies most commonly to information obtained in court records, but it would likely apply to other government records as well, both because of a potential constitutional privilege and because the information is already exposed to the public eye.
Indiana recognizes consent as a defense to a publication of private facts claim. Indiana 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 Indiana is eighteen; if you interview or photograph someone under the age of eighteen, you should seek consent from the subject's parent(s) or guardian. See the general description for a more detailed discussion of release forms.