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False Light Invasion of Privacy

By Eric Misterovich

False light invasion of privacy, like defamation, is a tort intended to protect an individual against statements that place that individual in a false light. At common law, a plaintiff must prove the following to establish a claim for false light invasion of privacy:

  1. That the defendant published a statement to third parties;
  2. That the published statement specifically identifies the plaintiff;
  3. That the statement places the plaintiff in a false light that is highly offensive to a reasonable person; and
  4. That the defendant knew that the statement was false or acted with reckless disregard with respect to the falsity of the statement

Since false light invasion of privacy is a state law tort, these elements may change depending on the applicable state law. Additionally, due to its closeness to a defamation cause of action, some states do not recognize false light invasion of privacy as a viable cause of action. Where states do recognize a cause of action for false light invasion of privacy, many states recognize that the cause of action for false light invasion provides a remedy for the emotional distress suffered by a plaintiff unlike defamation, which provides a remedy for damage to the plaintiff’s reputation.

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