How to File an Invasion-of-Privacy Lawsuit

By Sandra King ; Updated May 01, 2017

To file an invasion of privacy lawsuit, first determine how your privacy was violated and whether your state considers that act a civil intrusion. State laws define what type of behavior by an individual or organization justifies a legal claim of invasion of privacy, as well as how you must prove your rights were violated. It’s a complicated process that generally requires legal counsel.

Invasion of Privacy Basics

Broadly speaking, invasion of privacy alleges that an individual or organization intruded on your personal life without consent. Proving the circumstances surrounding your claim and understanding the complex legal nature of privacy laws is often difficult without an attorney by your side. However, it may help to understand what invasion of privacy actually is.

For instance, when contemplating the validity of your lawsuit, most courts consider whether the intrusion was intentional, what you suffered because of the act against your privacy and what type of intrusion occurred. The most common intrusions noted as potential rights violations include:

  • Using or appropriating your name or likeness without permission
  • Intrusion upon seclusion
  • Depicting you in a false light
  • Publicly disclosing private facts about you

Types of Invasion of Privacy Offenses

Appropriation of Name or Likeness

Whether you’re a famous celebrity or an ordinary citizen, you have the right to control the use of your identity for commercial or economic purposes. State laws vary but generally require that you, the plaintiff, prove the defendant used your name, likeness, or identity and did so for his benefit, whether economic or otherwise. Plaintiffs must also prove he did so without your consent and the action caused injury to the plaintiff.

Intrusion Upon Seclusion

This form of privacy invasion occurs when someone intrudes physically or otherwise upon your solitude or seclusion. To break these privacy laws, an intruder may use a telephoto camera lens to take a picture through your living room window or electronically eavesdrop on a private conversation in your bedroom. So-called “Peeping Toms” often violate this privacy law.

To make a claim for intrusion upon seclusion, most states require that you show that:

  • The action was intentional
  • The invasion would be offensive to a reasonable person
  • The matter intruded upon was private
  • You suffered mental anguish as a result

False Light

In this type of privacy invasion, a defendant is accused of publicly disclosing information about the plaintiff that is misleading but not necessarily false. Most states require that a “false light” suit must contain the following elements:

  • Publicly revealing information about the plaintiff by the defendant
  • Reckless disregard for the facts
  • Placing the plaintiff in a false light
  • Being highly embarrassing or offensive to a reasonable person

Public Disclosure of Private Facts

Courts often weigh this invasion of privacy claim against a citizen's right to free speech. Some states do not recognize this type of “invasion” as a valid claim, while other states do believe it meets the criteria for invasion of privacy. If, for instance, the defendant obtained a video showing you intoxicated and behaving strangely at a private gathering, and shared it with your coworkers for laughs, it might be an invasion of privacy. If, however, you’re running for public office and a reporter released the video to a local news channel, it might be considered free speech. To file an invasion of privacy claim, you must prove the information revealed is not of public concern and that a reasonable person would find the information offensive if disclosed.

About the Author

A medical writer since 1990 and successful home-based business owner for more than 14 years, Sandra King holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications. She uses her formal education, professional insight and extensive volunteer involvement to cover topics on health and fitness, pets, parenting for a lifetime, building healthy relationships, conquering business basics and developing career goals.