Privacy invasion and Libel Case Study

 

Privacy invasion and Libel Case Study

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Introduction

The case study provided is a good example of the balance between first amendment rights and the freedom of religion. The first amendment as entrenched in the United States constitution is part of the bills of rights that allows free exercise of religion (Kister, 1987, p. 102). It has clauses on the freedom of region which separates the church and the government. It also prohibits government interfering with an individual’s practice of religion. However, religious actions and rituals may be limited by federal and civil laws (Allen, 2010, p. 1711). Therefore,

Privacy violation has become a common cause of actions cited for lawsuits. Many people have been compensated for damages resulting from privacy violation. Privacy violation refers to the right to posses and control property and personal information against, seizure, searches and exposure. In circumstances where a party may feel that his/her privacy has been invaded, the person has the right to sue the parties by means of civil law attorney and the civil court for the damages (Young, 1975, p. 138). This case helps in understanding issues relating to invasion of personal privacy and libel in line to Steve’s case.

A tort is an illegal act or harm that does not involve an infringement of a contract for can result in civil action (Cathy, 2009, p. 163). Of the four violations of privacy torts, intrusion of solitude and seclusion, public disclosure of private facts, false light, and appropriation, Steve’s case involves the torts of intrusion of solitude and public disclosure of private facts. In the first tort, it involves an individual undesired exposure to publicity by third party. The attorney need to confirm that indeed there were damages or the undesired exposure. Steve had decided to reveal his confidential data to the leaders and the leaders had no right to expose this information to other people against his wish.

The second tort is the public disclosure of private facts which pertains to circumstances where a person reveals; unnecessary offensive confidential information to the community regardless of whether the information is true or false.  Like the first tort, the attorney needs to establish that the information is not of worry to the civic. It is therefore, true that the leaders of the church invaded Steve’s privacy by insisting and threatening to expose his private information to his employers, colleges and family members and yet the information was private that was required to be shared between him and the leaders only. By threatening to expose the information to third party, Steve privacy was being invaded and he has got the right to demand for his rights.

A libel is a written and false and disparaging statement about an individual that a tortfeasor communicates to the third parties (Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy n.d). Such communication or publication must injure the victim’s reputations in the community or society.        In summary, libel is written statement, it is false and defamatory statement about an individual, tortfearors must communicate the statement to third parties and the communication must harm the victim reputation (Young, 1975, p. 348). To this end, Steve’s case is not a libel and it only qualifies to be libel in the circumstance that his private affairs are transferred to third parties in writing, and should be false. In his case, he has been informed and he has objected his private information to be realized to the third parties as it may injure his reputation.

In this case, expectation of privacy is expected regardless of the church’s doctrines stating or requiring that any person joining the church discloses personal indiscretions to the leaders of the church. When joining the church, Steve thought that the information that he will disclose to the leaders will not be disclosed to other members of the church. He only knew or was informed after disclosing his indiscretions that his problems and what he said was going to be communicated to other parties (4 common law privacy torts n.d).  Therefore, to this end, Steve expected that information he was disclosing was going to be private between him and church leaders only.  The church leaders invaded his privacy by not informing him of the disclosure. If Steve was aware that the information he was going to give would be distributed to third parties, he would not have opted to disclose his problems or he could not have been hesitant in allowing the information to be communicated to the public.

Defenses to the tort of libel and privacy torts in relation to Steve’s lawsuit include; in the tort of libel, if the statements were written or recorded, the information   was communicated and was false. For instance, if the leaders transferred the information that was not what Steve said and lastly. Furthermore, if the information disclosed to third party harmed him and destroyed his reputation in the society.

When it comes to privacy tort, Steve would prove that the leaders exposed his private information to third parties against his will and that the information exposed caused damage to him in terms of his reputation in the community. On the public disclosure of private facts, Steve would also defend himself that the leaders revealed or disclosed private facts or information to the public that was not of concern to the public.

There is a legal disparity in revealing individual indiscretions to church elders, congregation, or even the members of the public.  This is because every person has the right of disclosing such information if the church doctrines allow that and if the person does not feel any violation of his/her privacy. When a person decide to disclose personal or private indiscretions to the members of the  church, the individual does not feel any privacy violation therefore, in such circumstances the  person cannot claim that his/her rights to information privacy is invaded.

In the case of Steve, there is clear evident that he was not wiling his private indiscretion to be disclosed by the leaders to the members of the church and therefore, by the leaders threatening to reveal the information they were contravening and breaking his rights to privacy. Therefore, they were liable to breach of Steve’s rights.

In conclusion, the case study provided is a good illustration of how violation of an individual privacy can be done. The case also helps in understanding the differences of first amendment and the freedom of religion on the rights of individuals.  It is therefore, true that the tort on privacy was breached by the leaders. Steve was not informed that his private indiscretion would be disclosed to third parties. What he knew while joining the church was that his problems would be solved between him and the church leaders. The leaders contravened his rights and by telling him that his personal indiscretion would be disclosed to the public, it was a clear intrusion of privacy. Libel did not happen in the case study as Steve’s private information was not written, but if that could have happened, the leaders would be accused of libel. However, the case has assisted in providing insight on how privacy invasion and libel occurs in real world.

References

Allen, A. (2010). Privacy Torts: Unreliable Remedies for LGBT Plaintiffs. California Law           Review, 98(6): 1711-1764.

Cathy, J. (2009). Torts and personal injury law. New York: Delmar publishers.

Kister, K. (1987). A Chilling Effect: the growing threat of libel and privacy invasion actions         to the First Amendment (Book). Library Journal, 112(10):102.

Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/tort-theories/

Young, R. L. (1975).  Libel Damages Upheld in Privacy invasion Case. American Bar       Association Journal, 61 (3):  p348.

4 common law privacy torts.   http://www.cas.okstate.edu/jb/faculty/senat/jb3163/privacytorts.html

 

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