False Light

statue-of-liberty serious charges

Publicity Placing Person In False Light

The tort of publicity placing person in false light (hereinafter “false light”) is defined in the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 652E which provides the following:

One who gives publicity to a matter concerning another that places the other before the public in a false light is subject to liability to the other for invasion of his privacy, if

(a) the false light in which the other was placed would be highly offensive to a reasonable person, and

(b) the actor had knowledge of or acted in reckless disregard of the falsity of the publicized matter and the false light in which the other would be placed. However, the courts have applied some of the same elements of defamation to the tort of false light because of their similarities. Fogel v. Forbes, 500 F. Supp. 1081, 1087 (1980). Therefore, like in defamation cases, the court has a duty in false light cases to determine “whether the communication is capable of bearing the meaning ascribed to it by the plaintiff and whether the meaning so ascribed is defamatory in character. If the court decides against the plaintiff upon either of these questions, there is no further question for the jury to determine and the case is ended.” Id. at 1084. Restatement (Second) of Torts § 614 cmt. b (1977). The above comes from opinion in Jones v. WTXF-Fox 29, 26 Phila. 291.

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