Missouri law recognizes a few different claims an individual may pursue in civil court for money damages against another for invasion of privacy. Legally, invasion of privacy is the umbrella term for several privacy sub-claims. Three of the sub-claims are intrusion upon seclusion, publication of private facts, and false light.
Invasion of Privacy — Intrusion Upon Seclusion
To make a submissible case for intrusion upon seclusion, an individual must show the existence (1) of private and secret subject matter, (2) that at all times there was a right to keep that subject matter private and secret from third-parties, and (3) that another person gained access to the private and secret subject matter through unreasonable means. An example of intrusion upon seclusion would be a person breaking and entering your home and viewing your personal documentation (e.g., financial records, health records, etc.) without your consent.
Invasion of Privacy — Publication of Private Facts
An actionable case for private facts exists when a defendant (1) publishes — orally or in writing — information to third parties about a plaintiff, (2) the plaintiff does not waive or consent to the publication, (3) the information published is a private matter concerning only the plaintiff which third-parties have no legitimate concern, and (4) the publication was designed to embarrass the plaintiff. Note that publication of private facts, unlike defamation or injurious falsehood, does not require that the published information be false. Thus, a good example of this claim would be a co-worker telling other co-workers that their boss has a sexually transmitted disease. If the publication pertaining to the disease was designed to embarrass the boss, then the boss probably has a claim.
Invasion of Privacy — False Light
False light is when a defendant (1) attributes utterances/beliefs to a plaintiff which are false and would be considered highly offensive to a reasonable person, and the defendant (2) had knowledge of the falsity of the utterances/beliefs or acted in reckless disregard as to their truth or falsity. Courts interpreting this claim have consistently stated that the classic false light case is when one publicly attributes to the plaintiff some opinion or utterance, whether harmful or not, that is false, such as claiming that the plaintiff wrote a poem, article or book which plaintiff did not in fact write.
In closing, it is important to note that just proving all of the elements for these claims may not make it worthwhile to pursue your case. You should have proof of what harm or damages you have suffered in light of an invasion of privacy to justify the costs of litigation.
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