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
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
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.
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.
6. Based on your analysis, provide your conclusion to the problem.