Public Disclosure Private Facts

General conversations suddenly aren’t so general when they show up in print. Details of your sexual orientation, financial status, or religious rituals without your permission or consent could be legally actionable. The elements to satisfy a Public Disclosure of Private Facts claim, include: (a) a form of publicity - print, photo, audio or video recording – given to matters concerning your private life, (b) the published facts are highly sensitive to a person of reasonable, ordinary sensibilities, and (c) the published information was not a legitimate public concern, or “newsworthy.”

What’s important to remember is a you can bring a claim against an individual or business entity for public disclosure of private facts even if the facts are true. What’s equally important, however, is that any information of legitimate public concern, or “newsworthy”, will overwhelmingly not be considered factual private information for purposes of a lawsuit. Texas courts have held the following cases not to be in violation of the public disclosure of private facts law:

  • · A man sued a newspaper for breach of fiduciary duty, tortious interference with contract, and negligent infliction of emotional distress after it published photos of his dead wife in her coffin. The court, however, ruled for the newspaper on all claims. Cox Texas Newspapers, L.P. v. Wootten, 59 S.W.3d 717 (Tex. App. Austin 2001).

  • · A news broadcast, using the first name of a rape victim along with a picture of the residence where the attack occurred, was not in violation of the law. The broadcast, which at the time questioned the guilt of the accused rapist, was held to be newsworthy and relevant to the accused’s innocence as a matter of public concern. Ross v. Midwest Communications, Inc., 870 F.2d 271 (5th Cir.), 493 U.S. 935 (1989).

  • · A photo from a high school soccer game that revealed a player’s privates was held to be privileged under the First Amendment because the public event was newsworthy. McNamara v. Freedom Newspapers, Inc., 802 S.W.2d 901 (Tex. Ct. App. 1991).

And there’s entirely too much innuendo and connotation in that last example for me to continue.

Unauthorized private facts about your life been illicitly disclosed? Call us.

Setterberg Law Office