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Law School Case Brief

Pavesich v. New England Life Ins. Co. - 122 Ga. 190, 50 S.E. 68 (1905)

Rule:

The right of privacy, like every other right that rests in the individual, may be waived by him, or by any one authorized by him, or by any one whom the law empowers to act in his behalf, provided the effect of his waiver will not be such as to bring before the public those matters of a purely private nature which express law or public policy demands shall be kept private. This waiver may be either express or implied, but the existence of the waiver carries with it the right to an invasion of privacy only to such an extent as may be legitimately necessary and proper in dealing with the matter which has brought about the waiver.

Facts:

Paolo Pavesich brought an action against the New England Mutual Life Insurance Company (NEMLIC), a non-resident corporation, and several of its employees for libel and for violation of Pavesich’s right of privacy. Pavesich contended that NEMLIC used a picture of his likeness, without his consent, in a newspaper advertisement promoting life insurance. Pavesich further argued that the words above the picture endorsing the insurance were false and libelous. NEMLIC presented a general demurrer, which was sustained by the city court. Pavesich appealed the city court’s judgment.

Issue:

Taking into consideration the circumstances of the case at hand, did NEMLIC commit libel upon the person of Pavesich and further violate the latter’s right of privacy?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The court recognized, as a legal right, the right of privacy. Based on this, the court held that the publication of Pavesich’s picture without his consent by NEMLIC as an advertisement, for the purpose of increasing the profits and gains of NEMLIC, was an invasion of such right and was actionable under the law. Furthermore, the court noted that Pavesich never had a policy of insurance with NEMLIC and that this fact was known to the former’s friends and acquaintances. As such, the words attributed to Pavesich became false and libelous as they exposed him to contempt or ridicule.

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