Individuals in society receive various forms of protection from invasion of privacy. TV shows or legal dramas will often bring up the topic of defamation, but there is another way to protect against privacy claims that cast you in a negative light. While a defamation lawsuit allows the plaintiff to sue another party for publishing false information, a false light claim is brought forth when a person’s image or information is publicly disclosed, but under false light, which has negative connotations.
For example, if a political party runs an ad regarding a controversial and offensive opinion/idea/issue and uses the image of a person while spreading that message, the person can sue for invasion of privacy if they are not connected or associated with the ad’s message. By using the person’s photo, the political party has placed the plaintiff in a false light. Furthermore, even if the ad did not name the person and their image, it still implied a false idea to the person. A false light claim cannot be brought forward if the person consented to their image being used in the ad as was presented in the final product.
Depending on the case and the way the lawsuit is presented, false light is open to interpretation given that it is very difficult and complex to create a universal standard for what is offensive or negative to each individual. While some states do not allow for false light and instead require a defamation suit, California does allow for the former to be brought forward. The statute of limitation for a false light suit is one year. If the plaintiff proves the suit in court, they can receive damages to recover for their loss of reputation and income, as well as receiving punitive damages.