Oct. 18, 2005
No, he would
not win; Briskow v. Reader’s Digest was a similar case, and the court
found that Briskow and the events surrounding his crime were still newsworthy.
In this case, Fred Frisky’s crimes were certainly of legitimate public
Unfortunately for Mrs. Badluck, her name is about to become a self-fulfilling
prophecy of sorts once more—she probably won’t win a privacy suit. A private
citizens can become an involuntary public figure, and the court has ruled
(such as in Carter v. Superior Court of San Diego County, according to
the text) that a photo of a murder victim does constitute a matter of public
concern and is newsworthy.
isn’t clear; there have been many similar cases, and the rulings aren’t
entirely consistent. In this case, the question of illegal intrusion does come
up; for one thing, many states have wiretap laws, as well as related laws that
prohibit recording a conversation with someone (in nearly any context or
situation) without informing them / getting prior permission. The chief could
claim damages, and that might be enough to help win his case.
This case is
similar to Bindrim v. Mitchell. Part of the reason Bindrim had won was
that Bindrim proved real quotes (from the therapy sessions) had been used in
the book. However, the psychologist still might have a case, especially if
there remains something in the novelist’s book that could identify the
psychologist, the patients or the actual sessions. It sounds as though the
novelist had only been invited to participate if he did not write about the
goings-on, and the patients should have been able to expect a right to
privacy. The case sounds like falsification and false light.
It could be
a legal problem, but as was the case with Virgil v. Time, the answer
would eventually have to be determined by the court. In Virgil’s case, the
strange facts he’d given out about himself were determined to be newsworthy in
the context of the story. Would an evangelist’s ‘colorful’ past be significant
to the personality feature about him? In this case, the answer is probably
It sounds like McGee
might have a case, but the question (as phrased) is a bit ambiguous—it sounds
like this is more of a case of contract law, actually. The question says that
McGee made the discovery “two years later,” but there is no specification that
“two years later” was when the similar endorsement showed up. The company with
whom he originally contracted, for example, was the same one that transferred
his endorsement; did the contract say anything about other products? If not,
McGee might well win. Numerous cases have spelled this out.