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:
- That the defendant published a statement to third parties;
- That the published statement specifically identifies the plaintiff;
- That the statement places the plaintiff in a false light that is highly offensive to a reasonable person; and
- 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.