Oct. 18, 2005
Hypothetical Cases

  1. 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 concern.

  2. 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.

  3. The answer 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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 yes.

  6. 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.