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§39.5 False Light Invasion of Privacy – Assignment of False Light Claims

The Case: West v. Media General Convergence, Inc. , 53 S.W. 3d 640 (Tenn. 2001).

The Basic Facts: Plaintiffs operated a private probation services business, and were referred this business by the general sessions courts in Hamilton County. Plaintiffs claimed that WDEF-TV defamed them by broadcasting false statements that the plaintiffs' business is illegal. Plaintiff West, in particular, claimed that the defendant invaded her privacy by implying that she had a sexual relationship with one of the general session judges; and that the general sessions judges and the plaintiffs otherwise had a "cozy," and hence improper, relationship. The opinion in this case recognizes the tort of false light invasion of privacy.

The Bottom Line:

  • "In addition, for purposes of clarification, this Court adopts Section 652I of the [RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF TORTS] (1977) which recognizes that the right to privacy is a personal right. As such, the right cannot attach to corporations or other business entities, may not be assigned to another, nor may it be asserted by a member of the individual's family, even if brought after the death of the individual. [RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF TORTS] § 652I cmt. a-c (1977). Therefore, only those persons who have been placed in a false light may recover for invasion of their privacy." 53 S.W. 3d at 648.

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The foregoing is an excerpt from Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law, published by John A. Day, Civil Trial Specialist, Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, recipient of Best Lawyers in America recognition, Martindale-Hubbell AV® Preeminent™ rated attorney, and Top 100 Tennessee Mid-South Super Lawyers designee. Read John’s full bio here.

To order a copy of the book, visit www.dayontortsbook.com. John also blogs regularly on key issues for tort lawyers. To subscribe to the Day on Torts blog, visit www.dayontorts.com.

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