Critical Thinking- Torts

Defamation and Invasion of Privacy – Inquiring Minds Want to Know

Beauty Queen had recently married the billionaire recluse Howard Huge. She consented to the couple giving an interview to the great news person Baba Wawa. Beauty Queen hoped to further help Howard Huge overcome his reclusiveness. Baba Wawa arrived at the mansion a little early and as she walked by a large picture window at the front of the house she stopped and looked in. She saw Howard Huge holding one of Beauty Queen’s prized Afghan dogs by its collar or neck, shaking or striking it on the shoulders. Meanwhile, Beauty Queen was on her hands and knees on the carpet, wearing her underwear, wiping something wet and brown looking from the luxurious cream colored carpeting, and seemingly crying. Baba Wawa took pictures. She then waited outside the house until the appointed time for the interview.

During the interview Beauty Queen talked about how happily married the two were. Howard Huge did not say anything unless directly asked, then answered without emotion and briefly. At one point Baba Wawa asked about the prize Afghan hounds and asked to see them. Beauty Queen uncomfortably told Baba Wawa that they were under the weather and that she would not stress them by having them come to the great room. Baba Wawa completed the interview and left.

The story that she published included the photo of Howard Huge “strangling” the prize dog and looking like he was angry, with Beauty Queen appearing to be cowering and crying. Baba Wawa further indicated that the couple refused to allow the dogs to be seen and that no one had seen the dogs since the photographed scene. The couple began to be shunned by their peers and denied permission to show the dogs. They sued Baba Wawa and Star News, her employer, seeking compensation for damaging their reputations. The real story was that the dog was choking on some object and Howard was trying to dislodge it by hitting it between the shoulder blades and shaking it. Howard was worried about the poor dog, of which he was very fond, throughout the interview. This might explain why he seemed surly or distant during the interview.

1. Beauty Queen and Howard Huge want to sue both the interviewer Baba Wawa and the magazine that published the story Star News. You should explain the issue(s), the law, how the law might be applied to this story, and your conclusion in regards to suing the defendants. Write your essay in IRAC format (Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion). Warning: Often, there is so much law (Rule) to explain and apply that the information is clearer when you break it into a series of short law and application summaries.

2. What is the issue or what are the issues? It might help to start by writing, “The issue is whether or not….” State it as specifically as you can, identifying the causes of action and referring to the story.

3. Explain the elements of each claim and which elements might not be shown by the evidence. As you explain the elements of each tort, identify how the facts satisfy or do not satisfy each of the elements. A plaintiff can sue more than one defendant and can make more than one claim. The following sources may be useful to supplement your text’s law summaries. Definition of defamation can be found at the following website.… Warning: When explaining the tort of defamation, ignore distinctions between slander and libel, and concentrate on the elements of defamation alone. Invasion of privacy as described in the Restatement of Torts is at the following website.… s22.htm

4. Explain the defense(s) that Baba Wawa and Star News will use and which elements might not be shown for the defense.

5. The case of New York Times v. Sullivan is a famous case you should use for comparison. Summarize it and tell how it is similar and how it is different. If you do not find the case in the text, you may access a summary of the case it at the following website. co-v-sullivan/ 6. Based on your analysis, provide your conclusion to the problem.