The Statute of Limitations for Invasions of Privacy

By Elissa Bassini
Individuals have a legal right to be free of prying eyes in their personal lives.

city photographer #1 image by Dmitry Goygel-Sokol from Fotolia.com

A statute of limitations is a type of law that restricts the time period within which a plaintiff may bring a lawsuit following the occurrence of the events on which her legal claims are based. Each state has its own statute of limitations for invasion of privacy claims, which vary between one and four years.

Function of Statutes of Limitations

The function of statutes of limitations is to prevent litigants from asserting fraudulent or stale claims after relevant evidence has been lost or facts obscured due to the passage of time. A statute of limitations is a defense that the defendant must assert before the court in order to defeat an action brought by a plaintiff after the requisite time period has elapsed.

Features of the Invasion of Privacy Tort

Individuals have a legal right to be free of prying eyes in their personal lives.

city photographer #1 image by Dmitry Goygel-Sokol from Fotolia.com

Invasion of privacy is a tort designed to protect the right of an individual to be left alone. A defendant violates that right when he causes an invasion of another's private affairs and activities in a manner that is so objectively unreasonable as to offend or embarrass an ordinarily prudent person.

Modern tort law includes four categories of invasion of privacy: intrusion of solitude; public disclosure of private facts; false light; and appropriation. According to the Restatement (Second) of Torts, virtually all U.S. jurisdictions now recognize an individual’s right to privacy in some form as well as the corresponding right to sue for personal injury compensation for violations of that right.

Considerations

Generally, the limitations period for bringing a lawsuit for the tort of invasion of privacy begins to run on the date that the invasion occurs. Thereafter, the plaintiff must file her suit within the time frame prescribed by the applicable state statute of limitations for invasion of privacy. Depending on which state's law applies, the plaintiff may have as brief as one year or as long as four years to sue the defendant accused of violating her right to privacy. If the plaintiff fails to timely assert her claims, she risks losing her right to personal injury compensation for that violation.

About the Author

Elissa Bassini has been writing since 2001. She has been a law firm associate, judicial intern and a teaching assistant/research consultant at the University of Pennsylvania, where she received a 2005 Writers Capstone Honor. Her writing appears in university curricula, research and marketing materials. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, summa cum laude, and a Juris Doctor from the University of Pennsylvania.

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