Just because something is true does not necessarily mean that it should be made public. Your privacy may be invaded despite the fact that what someone has said or written about you is true.
Most of us don’t want the rest of the world to know everything about us. There are many facts that we consider private. For example, a person born with physical defects who later corrected them through surgery may wish to keep those facts private. Or a person may have had a previous history of prostitution but has since become married and now lives a more “traditional” life.
Those who choose to enter public life – politicians and entertainers among them – have a somewhat reduced expectation of privacy. The courts have been more flexible regarding public disclosure of facts relating to the private matters of these persons.
One who discovers and discloses private facts about others may assert a widespread public interest, or “newsworthiness.” There is no strict standard as to newsworthiness. It is generally defined by the interest of the members of the community. Consequently, there has been much debate as to whether a person’s sexual activities or whether the name of a rape victim is newsworthy.
In invasion of privacy cases, however, it is the duty of the plaintiff to establish that the private information made public is not newsworthy.
Many states have statutes that prohibit public disclosure of facts that are private. Texas provides for three types of invasion of privacy claims:
- Misappropriation, which is the appropriation or exploitation of someone’s personality
- Unlawful publicity, which is the publicizing of someone’s private affairs that has no legitimate public concern
- Intrusion on seclusion, which is the wrongful intrusion into someone’s private activities that causes the person mental anguish, suffering or shame
What damages can be recovered for unlawful public disclosure of private facts? If the private facts were published but determined not to be newsworthy, the plaintiff may recover general and special damages, usually relating to emotional distress. Some statutes may also permit the recovery of costs and reasonable attorney’s fees. Punitive damages are sometimes permitted as well, to discourage a defendant from engaging in similar conduct again.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury or injustice, the experienced personal injury legal team at Roberts & Roberts is here to help with compassionate, aggressive representation. Please call 800-248-6000 or contact us for a free consultation.
Justin is an attorney at Roberts & Roberts and focuses his practice on mass tort litigation, where he specializes in helping individuals who are harmed by recalled or unsafe pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices. He has earned recognition as a “Top 40 Under 40” Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers. Prior to joining Roberts & Roberts, Justin served as an attorney in all three branches of Texas’s state government, including as a Briefing Attorney on the Texas Supreme Court. He also represented electric and natural gas utilities in complex regulatory proceedings before the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Railroad Commission of Texas. Justin is a published author in the St. Mary’s Law Journal.