Illinois Courts Hold Actual Malice is Required to Sustain a Cause of Action for False Light Invasion of Privacy
The Illinois First District Appellate Court held that to state a cause of action for false light invasion of privacy, the plaintiff must prove that: (1) the plaintiff was placed in a false light before the public as a result of the defendant's actions; (2) the false light in which the plaintiff was placed would be highly offensive to a reasonable person; and (3) the defendant acted with actual malice, that is, with knowledge that the statements were false or with reckless disregard for whether the statements were true or false. Brennan v. Kadner, 351 Ill.App.3d 963, 971 (1st Dist. 2004).
For purposes of establishing a cause of action for false light invasion of privacy, Illinois courts have adopted the “actual malice ” rule. Dubinsky v. United Airlines Master Executive Council, 303 Ill.App.3d 317, 330 (1st Dist. 1999). Actual malice has been defined by the Illinois Supreme Court as “knowledge that the statements made by a defendant were false or that such statements were made with reckless disregard as to their truth or falsity.” Poulos v. Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, Inc., 312 Ill.App.3d 731, 741 (1st Dist. 2000). To sustain a cause of action for false light invasion of privacy, the plaintiff must prove actual malice by clear and convincing evidence. Illinois Jurisprudence, Personal Injury and Torts § 17:48.
Furthermore, the actual malice requirement is premised on the nature of the false light tort as involving intentional wrongdoing and outrageous conduct. Illinois Jurisprudence, Personal Injury and Torts § 17:48. Thus, in false light invasion of privacy cases, it is not necessary to determine whether the plaintiff is a private or public figure, as is required in some defamation cases, because actual malice must be proven regardless of whether the plaintiff is a private or public figure. Id.
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