Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Shulman v. Group W Productions, Inc. case brief

Shulman v. Group W Productions, Inc. case brief summary
955 P.2d 469 (1998)

CASE SYNOPSIS
Plaintiff accident victims appealed a judgment from the Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District, Division Five, which reversed in part and remanded a summary judgment for defendant producers on plaintiffs' claims for invasion of privacy and unlawful intrusion.

CASE FACTS
Plaintiff accident victims' rescue from a serious accident was recorded and broadcast on defendant producers' television program. Plaintiffs sued, alleging two claims: invasion of privacy, based on unlawful intrusion by videotaping the rescue, and public disclosure of private facts, based on the broadcast.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY
The lower court reversed and remanded a summary judgment for defendants, finding that issues of fact existed as to both causes of action.

DISCUSSION

  • The court reversed in part, holding that summary judgment was proper as to the claim for publication of private facts but was improper as to the claim for intrusion. 
  • The broadcast was newsworthy as a matter of law and, therefore, could not be the basis for tort liability under a private facts claim. 
  • As to intrusion, triable issues existed as to whether defendants invaded plaintiffs' privacy by accompanying plaintiffs in the helicopter and as to whether defendants tortiously intruded by listening to plaintiff's confidential conversations with a nurse at the rescue scene, without plaintiff's consent. 
  • Moreover, defendants had no U.S. Constitutional Amendment I privilege to intrude on plaintiffs' seclusion and private communications.

CONCLUSION
The court reversed in part a decision reversing and remanding a summary judgment for defendant producers on plaintiff accident victims' claims for invasion of privacy and public disclosure of private facts. Summary judgment was proper as to the private facts claim because the broadcast was newsworthy, but triable issues existed as to the intrusion claim, and defendants had no privilege to intrude on plaintiffs' seclusion and private talks.

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