Law School Case Brief
Roberson v. Rochester Folding Box Co. - 171 N.Y. 538, 64 N.E. 442 (1902)
As a demurrer admits not only those facts which are expressly alleged in the complaint, but everything which can be implied by fair and reasonable intendment from its allegations, the reviewing court is to inquire whether the complaint, regarded from the standpoint of this rule, can be said to show any right to relief either in law or in equity.
Plaintiff alleged that defendants made and circulated lithographic prints, photographs and likenesses of her. She sought to enjoin a further circulation of the prints and prayed for damages. The trial court issued an interlocutory judgment in plaintiff’s favour, and the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision. The court reversed the appellate court’s judgment.
Did plaintiff have a cause of action against defendants for invasion of her right of privacy?
There was no precedent for such an action, and if such a principle were incorporated through a court of equity, the attempts to logically apply the principle would necessarily result in a vast amount of litigation, and in litigation bordering upon the absurd. The right of privacy could not be confined to the restraint of the publication of a likeness but must necessarily embrace as well the publication of a word-picture, a comment upon one's looks, conduct, domestic relations, or habits. Justice in a given case could be worked out according to the notions of right that governed the judge or judges comprising the court. However, the mischief that would result would be incalculable under a system that made a decision in one case a precedent for decisions in all future cases that were akin to it in the essential facts. As there was no allegation of libel in the complaint, the absence of such an allegation was fatal to the maintenance of an action for libel.
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