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Monday, March 11, 2019

WA State Torts: Public Disclosure of Public Facts

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Under Washington State laws, what is the tort of "public disclosure of private facts"Here's my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).


"Washington recognizes a common law right to privacy." White v. Township of Winthrop, 128 Wn.App. 588, 593-94, 116 P.3d 1034, (Div. 3 2005) (citing Reid v. Pierce County, 136 Wash.2d 195, 207, 961 P.2d 333 (1998)). A violation of this right is considered a tort. A tort is a civil wrong, other than breach of contract, for which remedies may be obtained.

"Public Disclosure of Private Facts" is a privacy tort in Washington State. Washington courts "base actions for ... [commission of this tort] as articulated in RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF TORTS § 652D (1977):

'One who gives publicity to a matter concerning the private life of another is subject to liability to the other for invasion of his privacy, if the matter publicized is of a kind that
(a) would be highly offensive to a reasonable person, and
(b) is not of legitimate concern to the public.'

White, 128 Wn.App at 593-94 (citing Reid, 136 Wash.2d at 205, 961 P.2d 333) (internal citations omitted).


"As concerns the general nature of matters protected by the right of privacy:

'Every individual has some phases of his life and his activities and some facts about himself that he does not expose to the public eye, but keeps entirely to himself or at most reveals only to his family or to close personal friends. Sexual relations, for example, are normally entirely private matters, as are family quarrels, many unpleasant or disgraceful or humiliating illnesses, most intimate personal letters, most details of a man's life in his home, and some of his past history that he would rather forget. When these intimate details of his life are spread [b]efore the public gaze in a manner highly offensive to the ordinary reasonable man, there is an actionable invasion of his privacy, unless the matter is one of legitimate public interest.'"

White, 128 Wn.App. at 594 (citing Cowles Publ'g Co. v. State Patrol, 109 Wash.2d 712, 721, 748 P.2d 597 (1988)) (internal citations omitted).


If you would like to learn more, then consider contacting an experienced Washington State Attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case. Please note: the information contained in this article is not offered as legal advice and will not form an attorney-client relationship with either this author or Williams Law Group, PS; please see our DISCLAIMER.

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