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Law School Case Brief

Feminist Women's Health Ctr. v. Superior Court - 52 Cal. App. 4th 1234, 61 Cal. Rptr. 2d 187 (1997)


A plaintiff alleging an invasion of privacy in violation of the state constitutional right to privacy must establish each of the following: (1) a legally protected privacy interest; (2) a reasonable expectation of privacy in the circumstances; and (3) conduct by defendant constituting a serious invasion of privacy. Whether a legally recognized privacy interest is present in a given case is a question of law to be decided by the court. Whether plaintiff has a reasonable expectation of privacy in the circumstances and whether defendant's conduct constitutes a serious invasion of privacy are mixed questions of law and fact. If the undisputed material facts show no reasonable expectation of privacy or an insubstantial impact on privacy interests, the question of invasion may be adjudicated as a matter of law.


A health center employee brought an action against the health center and several of its supervisory employees, asserting that she was wrongfully terminated from her employment after she refused to demonstrate cervical self-examination to pregnancy screening groups. The trial court granted defendants' summary adjudication motion as to all of plaintiff's claims except the one alleging she was wrongfully discharged in violation of her constitutional right to privacy.


Could the female health center employee, who agreed voluntarily to demonstrate a cervical self-examination to female client and employees at the health center, sue the health center because the self-examination violated her constitutional right to privacy?




The Court held that plaintiff needed to establish a legally protected privacy interest, a reasonable expectation of privacy in the circumstances, and conduct by defendants that constituted a serious invasion of privacy. The Court held that the exam infringed upon a legally protected privacy interest. However, the court held that plaintiff agreed to perform the cervical exam and the exam was important in advancing defendants' fundamental goal of educating women about the function and health of their reproductive systems. The court directed the lower court to set aside its order that denied defendants' motion for summary adjudication, and to enter a new order that granted same.

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