Sipple v. Chronicle Publishing Co.

154 Cal. App. 3d 1040, 201 Cal. Rptr. 665 (1984)

 

RULE:

There can be no privacy with respect to a matter which is already public or which has previously become part of the public domain. Moreover, there is no liability when defendant merely gives further publicity to information about plaintiff which is already public or when the further publicity relates to matters which plaintiff leaves open to the public eye.

FACTS:

Plaintiff, a homosexual man, foiled a presidential assassination attempt. Defendant newspapers published news stories in which plaintiff's sexual orientation was disclosed. Plaintiff sued defendants for invasion of privacy, and the trial court granted defendants summary judgment. Plaintiff appealed, claiming that the elements of the invasion of privacy constituted a factual determination that was not properly resolved via summary procedure. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s judgment.

ISSUE:

Were the facts disclosed by defendant newspapers’ articles non-private facts within the meaning of the law so that a crucial ingredient of the tort premised upon invasion of one's privacy was missing?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

The facts revealed that prior to the publication of defendants’ articles, plaintiff's homosexual orientation and participation in gay community activities had been known by hundreds of people. Since the articles did no more than to give further publicity to matters which plaintiff left open to the eye of the public, a vital element of the tort was missing rendering it vulnerable to summary disposal.

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