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Lake v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. - 582 N.W.2d 231 (Minn. 1998)


Intrusion upon seclusion occurs when one intentionally intrudes, physically or otherwise, upon the solitude or seclusion of another or his private affairs or concerns if the intrusion is highly offensive to a reasonable person. Appropriation protects an individual's identity and is committed when one appropriates to his own use or benefit the name or likeness of another.


Elli Lake and Melissa Weber vacationed in Mexico in March 1995 with Weber's sister. During the vacation, Weber's sister took a photograph of Lake and Weber naked in the shower together. After their vacation, Lake and Weber brought five rolls of film to the Dilworth, Minnesota Wal-Mart store and photo lab. When they received their developed photographs along with the negatives, an enclosed written notice stated that one or more of the photographs had not been printed because of their "nature." Later on, they were informed that one or more copies of the photograph were circulating in the community. Lake and Weber filed a complaint against Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (Wal-Mart) and one or more as-yet unidentified Wal-Mart employees, alleging the four traditional invasion of privacy torts--intrusion upon seclusion, appropriation, publication of private facts, and false light publicity. Wal-Mart denied the allegations and made a motion to dismiss the complaint under Minn. R. Civ. P. 12.02, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The district court granted Wal-Mart's motion to dismiss, explaining that Minnesota has not recognized any of the four invasion of privacy torts. The court of appeals affirmed.


Was the grant of Wal-Mart’s motion to dismiss in the invasion of privacy action as to the claim of false light publicity proper?




The intermediate court affirmed a grant of the motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted that Wal-Mart filed in the couple's invasion of privacy action. The court affirmed that grant as to the claim of false light publicity and reversed it as to the claim of intrusion on seclusion, appropriation, and publication of private facts. Noting that the right to be let alone was part of the common law, the court rejected the proposition that only the legislature was authorized to establish new causes of action and held that it was within the province of the judiciary to establish privacy torts in its jurisdiction. The court also found that the couple's interest in not having a photo of their nude bodies publicized was worthy of protection under causes of action for intrusion on seclusion, appropriation, and publication of private facts. The court further determined that, although there might have been some untrue and hurtful publicity that should have been actionable under false light, the risk of chilling speech was too great to justify protection for that small category of false publication that defamation did not protect.

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