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3.13-10  Invasion of Privacy - False Light

New May 1, 2009

In this action, the plaintiff alleges that the defendant has invaded (his/her) privacy by placing (him/her) in a false light before the public.  By this (he/she) means that the defendant publicized material about (him/her) that is false and is such a major misrepresentation of (his/her) character, history, activities or beliefs that a reasonable person in the plaintiff’s position would either be expected to take serious offense or be justified in feeling offended or aggrieved. 

To recover on this claim, the plaintiff must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence: 

(1) that the defendant publicized material or information about the plaintiff that was false;  

(2) that the defendant either knew that the publicized material was false and would place the plaintiff in a false light or acted with reckless disregard as to whether the publicized material was false and would place the plaintiff in a false light; and 

(3) that the material so misrepresented the plaintiff’s character, history, activities or beliefs that a reasonable person in the plaintiff’s position would find the material highly offensive. 

In determining whether a reasonable person in the plaintiff’s position would be seriously offended by the false material, you must determine whether, in the eyes of the community, the plaintiff would be justified in feeling offended or in feeling aggrieved. 

Authority

Venturi v. Savitt, 191 Conn. 588, 468 A.2d 933 (1983); Goodrich v. Waterbury Republican-American, Inc., 188 Conn. 107, 448 A.2d 1317 (1982); Honan v. Dimyan, 52 Conn. App. 123, 726 A.2d 613, cert. denied, 249 Conn. 909, 733 A.2d 227 (1999); Jonap v. Silver, 1 Conn. App. 550, 474 A.2d 800 (1984); Restatement (Second) § 652E. 

Notes 

Invasion of privacy involves not one single tort, but is four distinct kinds of invasion of four different interests of the plaintiff, which are tied together by the common name.  Otherwise they have almost nothing in common except that each represents an interference with the right of the plaintiff to be left alone.  The four categories of invasion of privacy are: (1) unreasonable intrusion upon the seclusion of another; (2) appropriation of the other's name or likeness; (3) unreasonable publicity given to the other's private life; and (4) publicity that unreasonably places the other in a false light before the public.  See Venturi v. Savitt, 191 Conn. 588, 591, 468 A.2d 933 (1983); 3 Restatement (Second), Torts § 652A- E. 

“Publicity” means that the matter is made public, by communicating it to the public at large or to so many persons that the matter must be regarded as substantially certain to become one of public knowledge.  3 Restatement (Second), Torts § 652 D and E, comment (a). 

Many times, the material that places someone in a false light is also defamatory.  In those cases, actions for invasion of privacy and defamation are pleaded together.  Each action, however, protects different interests: privacy actions involve injuries to emotions and mental suffering - defamation actions involve injury to reputation.  Even if pleaded together, there can be only one recovery for any particular publication.  Goodrich v. Waterbury Republican-American, Inc., 188 Conn. 107, 128 n.19, 448 A.2d 1317 (1982).  It is not necessary, however, that the offensive material also be defamatory. 

To the extent that this claim may also involve freedom of the press, federal law is also relevant.  Goodrich v. Waterbury Republican-American, Inc., 188 Conn. 107, 129, 448 A.2d 1317 (1982).
 


 

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