SW Legal studies in Business

Florida Rejects Tort of False Light Invasion of Privacy
Description

Florida high court held that the state does not recognize the tort of false light invasion of privacy. The tort of defamation provides sufficient protection.

Topic Torts
Key Words

False Light Invasion of Privacy; Defamation by Implication

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Edith Rapp was married to Marty Rapp until he died in 2003. Both were Jewish. Bruce Rapp, who was Marty’s son and Edith’s stepson, worked for Jews for Jesus. Shortly before Marty died, Bruce wrote a report in a Jews for Jesus newsletter that when he visited his folks that Edith asked questions about Jesus said she wanted “forgiveness for her sins” and asked Bruce to pray for her and Marty’s salvation. Edith sued Jews for Jesus for the tort of false light invasion of privacy and defamation. She said she did not do what Bruce claimed. The trial court dismissed her suit. The appeals court reversed in part and certified a question for review by the Florida high court about the state of the law in Florida regarding false light invasion of privacy and defamation.

Decision

Question answered. False light invasion of privacy was first recognized as a legal theory in 1890. It has been recognized in the Restatement (Second) of Torts. However, Florida does not recognize that as a cause of action. It is largely duplicative of defamation, both in the conduct alleged and the interests protected. False light and defamation both require publicity, falsity, reckless disregard as to the falsity, and damages. False light also requires that the publicity must be highly offensive to a reasonable person, and the publicity must be about the plaintiff. In contrast, the test for defamation is only if the statement was defamatory. The standard in defamation cases is if the statement prejudices the plaintiff in the eyes of a “substantial and respectable minority” of the community. That is sufficient protection for the interests of affected parties. False light as a separate tort may cause confusion.

Citation

Jews for Jesus, Inc. v. Rapp, ---So.2d--- (2008 WL 4659374, Sup. Ct., Fla., 2008)

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