South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Colorado Refuses to Recognize Tort of False Light Invasion of Privacy
Description Colorado high court held that the state does not recognize the tort of false light. That tort overlaps with the tort of defamation, so citizens have adequate protection of their rights without expanding the range of tort actions.
Topic Torts
Key Words Defamation; False Light Invasion of Privacy; Chilling Effect; Recognition of Tort
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts The Rocky Mountain News published a long article about "Denver's Biggest Crime Family," the Buenos. The article traced the history of the family, noting that 15 of the 18 children in the family have arrest records. Eddie Bueno, who was identified in the family tree, sued for defamation and false light invasion of privacy. Eddie left home at age 13, has led a quiet life, and never been involved in criminal activity. The trial court dismissed the defamation claim because there was no evidence of damage but held that the tort of false light had occurred and awarded $105,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. The News appealed.

Reversed. While 30 other states do, Colorado does not recognize the tort of false light invasion of privacy. Citizens receive adequate protection of their interests by the tort of defamation. To expand beyond that and allow the tort of false light would have a chilling effect on First Amendment freedom of the press.

Citation Denver Publishing Company v. Bueno, 54 P.3d 893 (Sup. Ct., Colo., 2002)

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