Publication of Private Facts

Publication of Private Facts in Indiana

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.

Publication of Private Facts in the District of Columbia

The District of Columbia recognizes a legal claim for publication of private facts. For the most part, the law in D.C. 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 D.C. law that are different from the general description.

State Law: Publication of Private Facts

Each state has its own definition of what constitutes invasion of privacy through the publication of private facts. Choose from the list below to determine whether your state recognizes a legal claim for publication of private facts, and, if so, how it defines the elements of and defenses to a private facts claim. (Note that the guide does not include every state at this time.)

Practical Tips for Avoiding Private Facts, Misappropriation, and Right of Publicity Claims

While you can't always eliminate your legal risks when publishing private information about individuals or using peoples' names and likenesses, there are a number of ways you can minimize your risk of being on the receiving end of a publication of private facts, misappropriation, or right of publicity

Publication of Private Facts

In most states, you can be sued for publishing private facts about another person, even if those facts are true. The term "private facts" refers to information about someone's personal life that has not previously been revealed to the public, that is not of legitimate public concern, and the publication of which would be offensive to a reasonable person. For example, writing about a person's HIV status, sexual orientation, or financial troubles could lead to liability for publication of private facts.

Publishing Personal and Private Information

When you publish information about someone without permission, you potentially expose yourself to legal liability even if your portrayal is factually accurate. Most states have laws limiting your ability to publish private facts about someone and recognizing an individual's right to stop you from using his or her name, likeness, and other personal attributes for certain exploitative purposes, such as for advertising goods or services.

Evans v. Evans

Date: 

03/02/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Linda A. Evans; Shirley Preddy

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

California Superior Court, San Diego County; Court of Appeals, Fourth District, California

Case Number: 

GIC881162 (trial level); No. D051144 (appellate level)

Legal Counsel: 

Linda A. Evans (Pro Se)

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Injunction Denied
Injunction Issued

Description: 

In March 2007, Thomas Evans, a deputy sheriff in the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, sued his former wife, Linda Evans, and her mother, Shirley Preddy, for defamation, harassment, invasion of privacy, and other claims. After Thomas and Linda Evans divorced in 2002, they engaged in a bitter dispute in family court over custody of their child, child support, and other issues. Thomas filed a separate lawsuit in California court after Linda and her mother allegedly posted false statements about him on various Internet websites and filed two written complaints with his employer. Thomas also alleged that Linda and Preddy published information from his medical and financial records on the Internet.

The trial court granted Thomas a preliminary injunction that prohibited Linda and Preddy from: (1) publishing "false and defamatory statements" about Thomas on the Internet; (2) publishing "confidential personal information" about Thomas on the Internet; and (3) contacting Thomas's employer regarding Thomas except to call 911 to report criminal conduct. Linda appealed, and the appellate court reversed the ruling of the district court. It held that the preliminary injunction was an unconstitutional prior restraint on speech, and that it was unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. The court remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. On the issue of Linda's alleged publication of Thomas's private information, the appellate court instructed the lower court to identify precisely what information Thomas seeks to protect and to balance his privacy rights (and the safety issues involved in disclosing personal information about a police officer) against the free-speech interests in publication.

Sometime before the appellate court ruled on the appeal, Thomas dismissed Preddy from the case, leaving Linda as the only defendant.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

AVM 6/12/09 - I checked the court docket, it does not indicate the resolution of the remaining counts against Ms. Evans. Can be found here court docket in case the documents are ever microfilmed. Checked Westlaw, no update to the docket

Appellate briefs are on WL and I uploaded them as well

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Evans v. Evans: Appellate Court Throws Out Prior Restraint

Yesterday, a California appellate court struck down a brazenly unconstitutional preliminary injunction prohibiting two defendants from making "false and defamatory statements" about, or publishing the "confidential personal information" of, Thomas Evans, a deputy sheriff in San Diego. The case, Evans v. Evans, 2008 WL 2009669 (Cal. Ct. App.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Frisco Fairways Homeowners Association v. Snell

Date: 

02/15/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

David Snell; David Doumani; Doug Macari

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

393rd Judicial District Court, Denton County, Texas

Case Number: 

2008-60050-393

Legal Counsel: 

Charles W. Branham III; Andrew Messer; Michael C Witt

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Settled (total)

Description: 

In February 2008, the Frisco Fairways Homeowners Association filed a defamation suit against three homeowners after they posted critical comments about the association on an online community forum. According to the Dallas News, the lawsuit claims that Mr. Snell, Mr. Doumani, and Mr. Macari falsely stated or implied that the association's board had lied to members, engaged in questionable financial dealings, and acted unethically. The association claims that the homeowners also posted private information about members. The dispute apparently arose after the association required residents to cover up air conditioning units, pool equipment, and other items with bushes. News reports indicate that the case is expected to go to trial in April 2008.

Update:

5/1/2008 - Parties settled the case.  As part of the settlement, the association agreed to post the settlement agreement on its website for no less than 30 days.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Status updated on 6/4/2008 (AAB)

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Perez Hilton v. Jonathan Jaxson

Date: 

04/09/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Jonathan Wayne Lewandowski, aka Jonathan Jaxson, aka Jonathan Taylor; and Does 1 through 25

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles; United States District Court, Central District of California

Case Number: 

BC388760 (state); 2:08-cv-03074 (federal)

Legal Counsel: 

Brian Spitz (The Spitz Law Firm)

Publication Medium: 

Blog
Print
Verbal

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Settled (total)

Description: 

On April 8, 2008, Perez Hilton sued fellow gossip-blogger Jonathan Jaxson for libel, slander, invasion of privacy, harassment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Jaxson, the former publicist for the Backstreet Boys whose real name is Jonathan Wayne Lewandowski, operates a blog called JJ's Dirt that feeds the public's apparently unlimited hunger for celebrity gossip.

The complaint, which Hilton filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleges that Jaxson slandered him by stating that Hilton had solicited sexual favors from Jaxson in exchange for help promoting Jaxson’s website. The complaint specifically refers to a February 28 article in the New York Post in which Jaxson stated that Hilton encouraged him to send sex tapes of himself. "He would tell me he would give me stories for my blog," Jaxson told the Post. "He used me."

Hilton also claims that statements Jaxson made to ABC News, Popcrunch.com, and HollywoodCrap.com, were defamatory. According to ABC News.com and allegations in Hilton's complaint:

Jaxson sent ABCNEWS.com copies of several instant message conversations he claims he had online with Lavandeira. The conversations appear to show Lavandeira requesting sex videos from Jaxson, apparently coaching him on who to send the tapes to and also contains several nude shots of Jaxson. ABCNEWS.com has not been able to independently verify the authenticity of the instant message conversations. . . .

"[Lavandeira] was using me as his personal porn service," said Jaxson, who admitted to sending several sex tapes and photographs featuring himself to Lavandeira on the condition that he would alert him to breaking celebrity news. "I felt manipulated."

Hilton states in his complaint that there was no agreement to exchange sex for his helping publicize Jaxson's blog.

Adding to the emotional nature of the dispute, Jaxson published Hilton's personal phone number on his blog earlier this week and told his readers that Perez "has hurt me and millions of others, because of this I think you should call him and let him know how you feel."

Under California's court rules, Jaxson has 30 days to answer the complaint.

Update:

5/9/2008 - Jaxson gave notice of the case's removal to the United States District Court, Central District of California.

6/2/2008 - Jaxson answered Hilton's complaint.

9/18/2008 - The parties entered into a written settlement agreement. (See exhibit A).

7/15/2009 - Jaxson filed a lawsuit against Hilton, alleged that he violated the 9/18/2008 settlement agreement. 

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Status updated on 6/6/2008 (AAB)

Updated 1/23/09 - VAF

Update 7/15/2009 - AVM added info on settlement and new suit. 

Subject Area: 

Perez Hilton Sues Fellow Gossip-Blogger For Defamation Over Alleged Sex Tapes

Earlier this week, Perez Hilton sued fellow gossip-blogger Jonathan Jaxson for libel, slander, invasion of privacy, harassment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Jaxson, the former publicist for the Backstreet Boys whose real name is Jonathan Wayne Lewandowski, operates a blog called JJ's Dirt that feeds the public's apparently unlimited hunger for celebrity gossip.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

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