Prisoner Sued for Invasion of Privacy for Filming Him In Jail
In Huskey v. National Broadcasting Company, Inc., 632 F. Supp. 1282 (N.D. Ill. 1986), a camera crew employed by the defendant filmed the plaintiff, an inmate, while visiting the federal prison at Marion, Illinois.
The crew filmed the plaintiff while he was in the prison's exercise cage, and while he was wearing only gym shorts and exposing his distinctive tattoos.
The plaintiff sued the defendant alleging, inter alia, that the defendant was liable on a common-law invasion of privacy claim.
The defendant responded, inter alia, that its depiction of a person in a "publicly visible area" could not serve as the basis for an action for intrusion upon seclusion, and sought to have the action dismissed based upon the plaintiff's failure to state a cause of action for which relief could be granted under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).
In rejecting the defendant's assertion in this regard, the federal court stated the following, in pertinent part:
Of course Huskey could be seen by guards, prison personnel and inmates, and obviously he was in fact seen by NBC's camera operator.
But the mere fact a person can be seen by others does not mean that the person cannot legally be "secluded".
Indeed, one paradigm case of the tort of intrusion upon seclusion is the Peeping Tom (see Restatement 652B comment b, illustration 2).
Further, Huskey's visibility to some people does not strip him of the right to remain secluded from others.
Persons are exposed to family members and invited guests in their own homes, but that does not mean they have opened the door to television cameras.
Prisons are largely closed systems, within which prisoners may become understandably inured to the gaze of staff and other prisoners, while at the same time feeling justifiably secluded from the outside world (at least in certain areas not normally visited by outsiders)....
No case has been cited to this Court (or discovered by independent research) holding that no area of seclusion exists within a prison as a matter of law.
Whether or not the exercise cage could be considered such an area is a factual question.
Huskey's complaint says he was not in public view and he expressly disapproved of the effort to film him.
That is enough for Rule 12(b)(6) purposes But NBC goes on to argue it cannot be held liable for intrusion upon Huskey's seclusion because such liability exists only (Restatement 652B):
if the intrusion would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.
And NBC says its actions, as a matter of law, cannot be deemed "highly offensive to a reasonable person"....
However, there is support for the view that merely photographing a person at home without his or her permission is objectionable enough to state a claim (see Dietemann v. Time, Inc., 449 F.2d 245, 249 (9th Cir. 1971)).
Indeed, the degree to which NBC's actions were objectionable must in large part depend on the degree to which Huskey was secluded while in the exercise cage.
And that also cannot be decided at the pleading stage. Huskey, 632 F. Supp. at 1287-1289.