Return to Privacy Module II


Privacy Law 4: Hamberger v. Eastman, 106 N.H. 107 (1964)


Abstract: Landlord installed a concealed listening and recording device in the bedroom of an apartment. The listening and recording device was ‘capable of transmitting and recording any sounds and voices originating in [the] bedroom.’ The tenants of that apartment, a husband and wife, discovered that the landlord had been able to hear and record all sounds in their bedroom, and accordingly filed suit. The court held that the landlord’s actions were a violation of plaintiffs' right of privacy. The court also commented that ‘the tort of intrusion upon the plaintiff's solitude or seclusion is not limited to a physical invasion of his home or his room or his quarters. As Prosser points out, the principle has been carried beyond such physical intrusion 'and extended to eavesdropping upon private conversations by means of wire tapping and microphones.’


Thus, the plaintiff’s are entitled to recover damages for the tort of invasion of privacy to the extent that damages can be shown. The plaintiffs here allege that as a direct result of the actions of the defendant, they have been ‘greatly distressed, humiliated, and embarrassed’ and have sustained ‘intense and severe mental suffering and distress, and [have] been rendered extremely nervous and upset, seriously impairing both [their] mental and physical condition.’



Privacy Law 5: Dietemann v. Time, Inc., 449 F.2d 245 (9th 1971)


Abstract: Plaintiff was featured in a Life Magazine story in which he was depicted to be a ‘quack’ medical professional. In order to research the article, the defendants (employees of Life Magazine) entered into an agreement with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office. Under this agreement, the defendants cooperated with the Attorney General’s office to research and collect evidence concerning the plaintiff’s unlicensed medical practice. In order to gain entry to the plaintiff’s office and home, the defendants told the plaintiff that they were seeking medical treatment and had been referred by a friend. Under this guise, they gained entrance to the plaintiff’s home and office. While in the office, they photographed the plaintiff without his consent and recorded his voice as he gave a medical diagnosis to one of the defendants. The resulting Life Magazine article featured photographs that were taken without the consent of the plaintiff as well as quotes that were recorded without his knowledge. The plaintiff sued, alleging invasion of privacy. Defendant argues that they are afforded greater freedom as members of the press, and that they were acting in cooperation with the Attorney General’s office.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that ‘under California law, cause of action for invasion of privacy was established on proof that defendant's employees, by subterfuge, gained entrance to office portion of plaintiff's home wherein they photographed him and electronically recorded and transmitted to third persons his conversation without his consent as result of which he suffered emotional distress.’ The fact that the acts were performed for the purpose of researching a magazine story does not protect the defendants from tort liability.



Privacy Law 6: Shulman v. Group W. Prods., 955 P.2d 469 (Cal. 1998)


Abstract: Television crews filmed accident victims during their rescue and aired the footage on the news. Rescue footage included footage taken at the scene of the accident, and in the rescue helicopter and ambulance. The footage also included audio of conversations between the rescuers (medical personnel) and the accident victims. The accident victims sued television producers alleging two tort counts: (1) publication of private facts and  (2) intrusion.


Lower courts held for the television producers. The case was then appealed to the Supreme Court where it was held that: (1) the story of the rescue (including footage of the victim’s appearance and words after the accident) was of legitimate public interest; (2) the presence of a cameraman at the accident was not intrusion on victims' seclusion; (3) the victims may have had a reasonable expectation of privacy once they had been placed in the rescue helicopter; (4) the victim was entitled to some degree of privacy in conversations with medical personnel; and (5) footage of the victim in the rescue helicopter and footage of conversations with rescue workers is offensive to the reasonable person.



Privacy Law 7: Daily Times Democrat v. Graham, 276 Ala. 380 (1964)


Abstract: Defendant (newspaper) published a photograph showing the plaintiff with her dress blowing upward as she was leaving a ride at a county fair. The photograph was taken without the consent of the plaintiff and was placed on the front page of the newspaper. The plaintiff became aware of the existence of the photograph when she saw the newspaper in local newspaper racks etc. Plaintiff sued alleging invasion of privacy. Plaintiff claims that publication of the photograph has caused her to be embarrassed, self-conscious and distraught.


The circuit court ruled in favor of the plaintiff. The newspaper appealed. The Supreme Court held that though the plaintiff was in a public place at the time the picture was taken, publication of the photograph constituted an invasion of the plaintiff’s privacy. The rationale for this decision is that publication of the photograph would be embarrassing to a person of reasonable sensitivity. Though the plaintiff had partially released her privacy rights by appearance in a ‘public scene,’ the release did not give the newspaper the right to publish a photograph that would cause embarrassment.