Law School Case Brief
Hall v. Post - 323 N.C. 259, 372 S.E.2d 711 (1988)
In North Carolina, the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress, consists of (1) extreme and outrageous conduct, (2) which is intended to cause and does cause (3) severe emotional distress to another. The tort may also exist where defendant's actions indicate a reckless indifference to the likelihood that they will cause severe emotional distress. Recovery may be had for the emotional distress so caused and for any other bodily harm which proximately results from the distress itself.
Susie Hall and her adoptive mother, Mary Hall, were the subjects of a true story about carnival workers who had abandoned their daughter as an infant and left her with a babysitter, identified as the adoptive mother. The adoptive mother and daughter claimed that the public disclosure of these acts caused them embarrassment and that they had to seek counseling as a result. The journalist and newspaper claimed that the tort of public disclosure of private facts should not be recognized by the common law of North Carolina.
Are claims for tortious invasion of privacy by truthful public disclosure of "private" facts concerning the plaintiffs cognizable at law in North Carolina?
The Supreme Court of North Carolina held that tort was not recognized by the common law and that decisions of the United States Supreme Court, scholarly articles, and the Restatement of Torts made it clear that the private facts branch of the invasion of privacy tort was, at the very best, constitutionally suspect. Further, the branch of the tort that the court was asked to adopt would duplicate or overlap other torts, such as the intentional infliction of emotional distress. Since the adoptive mother and daughter would only be entitled to recover once, if at all, it seemed that recognition of the private facts tort would deliver nothing of any real value.
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