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Can I sue someone for invading my privacy? PART I

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In New Hampshire, a person who invades another’s privacy could face civil liability for committing one or more of the three privacy torts currently recognized under New Hampshire law. Each of these privacy torts are discussed below, in addition to a fourth privacy tort that New Hampshire Courts have not yet recognized, but the Court could do so in the future.

Invasion of Privacy by Public Disclosure of Private Facts

The invasion of something secret, secluded, or private may, under certain circumstances, constitute public disclosure of private facts. Public disclosure of private facts occurs when one publicizes a matter concerning another’s private life, and the matter publicized (a) would be highly offensive to a reasonable person, and (b) is not of legitimate concern to the public. For the matter to have been “publicized,” it must have been communicated to the public at large, or to so many people that the matter is substantially certain to become public knowledge.

The case of Vassiliades v. Garfinckel's, Brooks Bros. dealt with his tort. In that case, a plastic surgeon who publicized his patient’s before and after surgery photos during a local news story. There, the Court held that the plaintiff was entitled to expect that the photographs would not be publicized without her consent. This was true despite that, at the time, the subject of plastic surgery was a topic of general public interest.

Invasion of Privacy by Intrusion upon Seclusion

Intrusion upon another’s seclusion occurs when intrusive conduct goes beyond the limits of decency by unreasonably and seriously interfering with another’s interest in not having his affairs known to others, and where the intruder should have realized that doing so would be offensive to ordinary persons. No physical invasion of one’s home or space is required. Rather, the invasion of something secret, secluded, or private is all that is required, and no special harm beyond the intrusion itself need be proven to recover damages. Whether the intrusion is offensive depends on the degree of intrusion, the context, conduct, and circumstances surrounding the intrusion as well as the intruder’s motives and objectives, the setting into which he intrudes, and the expectations of those whose privacy is invaded.

The case of Hamberger v. Eastman dealt with this tort. There, a husband and wife who rented an apartment sued their landlord because he had placed a listening and recording device in the apartment’s bedroom. The Court deemed that the landlord’s actions went beyond the limits of decency because the landlord intruded into “intimate details of the life of one who has never manifested a desire to have publicity are exposed to the public.” Moreover, the Court held that liability for intrusion upon seclusion is not limited to physical invasion of the home. Rather, Courts have found liability for intrusion upon seclusion in cases of eavesdropping on private conversations held outside the home. Ultimately, the inquiry comes down to whether the person who alleged intrusion had a reasonable expectation that their conversation or activity would remain private.

If you think that your privacy has been invaded in a manner actionable under the law, you should consult an experienced attorney. Please call us at (603) 288-1403 to see if we can help or fill out our online contact form for a free consultation.