Bradley v. Cowles Magazines, Inc.

Decision Date16 May 1960
Docket NumberGen. No. 47887
Citation26 Ill.App.2d 331,168 N.E.2d 64
PartiesMamie BRADLEY, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. COWLES MAGAZINES, INC., Vernon C. Myers, Gardner Cowles and William Bradford Huie, Defendants-Appellees.
CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois

Joseph M. Tobias, Chicago, for appellant.

Kirkland, Ellis, Hodson, Chaffetz & Masters, Howard Ellis, Don H. Reuben, James E. Beaver, Chicago, of counsel, for appellees.

SCHWARTZ, Justice.

Plaintiff brought this action for damages for violation of the right of privacy and for libel. The trial court dismissed the suit on motion of Cowles Magazines, Inc., (Cowles) because of the insufficiency of the complaint. From that order an appeal was taken. Plaintiff concedes that the statute of limitations has run against the libel action, and there is no need to make any further reference thereto. The action is based on certain articles appearing in Look Magazine (Look), owned and published by defendant Cowles, purporting to reveal facts concerning the murder of plaintiff's child.

Emmett Till, a boy of 14, was murdered in August 1955. Five months after his death, Look published the first of the two articles here in question, giving what purported to be the facts of the murder. One year later, or seventeen months after Emmett Till's death, Look published its second article. These articles were attached as exhibits to the complaint, and we may assume that this was a highly publicized and nationally discussed case involving, as it did, the horrible murder of a 14-year old boy.

The legal question before us is, shall the right of privacy be extended to provide damages for the anguish of a mother, caused by a publication concerning the murder of her son, although she herself was not featured or substantially publicized. The articles purport to give an account of the murder as related to a reporter by the two men who were accused and were acquitted. In one sentence only does it refer to plaintiff, saying that she, the mother of the murdered boy, giving her address, was notified of his kidnapping.

Plaintiff argues that the case law of Illinois supports the action, 'although not expressly as to the particular situation.' There are two cases in Illinois that bear directly on the right of privacy--Eick v. Perk Dog Food Co., 347 Ill.App. 293, 106 N.E.2d 742, and Annerino v. Dell Publishing Co., 17 Ill.App.2d 205, 209-210, 149 N.E.2d 761, 763. Eick v. Perk Dog Food Co., supra, was the first opinion of a reviewing court in this state on the subject. For that reason it covered fully the law of other jurisdictions, analyzed the nature of the right, considered its origin, and gave the various views and aspects of the problem. Whatever was said in that case must be considered in this context. Its holding is limited to its final conclusion--that a private person would be protected against the use of his portrait for commercial advertising purposes. It was recognized that any development of the right beyond that would be subject to scrutiny as particular cases were brought to the court and distinction or extension defined. Eventually, a body of more specific principles than those approved in the Eick case will perhaps be formulated.

Guaranty of the right of privacy is not a guaranty of hermitic seclusion. We live in a society geared in the opposite direction; a society that makes public demands and imposes public duties. Every election thrusts upon the shyest and most retiring citizen demands and obligations. A political campaign brings forth public insistence that he vote. Every television and radio program blares forth exigent calls to do or buy this or that. The census taker asks for the furnishing of private information. The mail brings importunities of every kind. The telephone serves a like purpose. Finally, the revenue collector pries into the very heart of what used to be a person's private affairs--how much he earned, how much he spent, how much he gave away. This is the background of custom and habit against which the right of privacy must be defined. To find an area within which the citizen must be left alone is the purpose of the action. Even so, chance or destiny may propel a private citizen into the public gaze. It is important, therefore, that in defining the limits of this right, courts proceed with caution.

In the Eick case, supra, we were on sure ground. There, the plaintiff had a clear right to be protected against the use of her likeness in order to further a commercial enterprise. The fact that her damages were exclusively the result of mental anguish did not defeat her right. What we did was to isolate and overcome that particular obstacle to the court's recognition of plaintiff's right of privacy.

In the Annerino case, supra, the court went a little further. There, the widow of a detective who had been killed by a gangster sued to recover damages on account of the use of her photograph in a publication called 'Inside Detective.' The magazine retold the story in an article entitled, 'If You Love Me, Slip Me a Gun.' It was the use of her photograph in that connection that constituted an invasion of plaintiff's right of privacy, although the usage was not commercial, as in the Eick case. It was a slight and very proper...

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  • Marzen v. US Dept. of Health and Human Services
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Illinois
    • April 4, 1986
    ...72 L.Ed.2d 849 (1982); Beresky v. Teschner, 64 Ill.App.3d 848, 381 N.E.2d 979, 984 (2d Dist.1978); Bradley v. Cowles, Magazine, Inc., 26 Ill.App.2d 331, 168 N.E.2d 64, 65 (1st Dist.1960); Metter v. Los Angeles Examiner, 35 Cal.App.2d 304, 95 P.2d 491, 494 (Cal.App.1939); and Note, 21 Rutger......
  • Cordell v. Detective Publications, Inc., 18918.
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    ...95 P.2d 491 (1939); James v. Screen Gems, Inc., 174 Cal.App. 2d 650, 653, 344 P.2d 799 (1959); Bradley v. Cowles Magazines, Inc., 26 Ill.App. 2d 331, 333, 336, 168 N.E.2d 64 (1960); Carlson v. Dell Pub. Co., 65 Ill.App.2d 209, 213 N.E.2d 39 (1965); Kelley v. Post Pub. Co., 327 Mass. 275, 27......
  • Green v. Chicago Tribune Co.
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • December 30, 1996
    ...prove invasion of her own privacy before she can recover. In support of this argument, the Tribune cites Bradley v. Cowles Magazines, Inc., 26 Ill.App.2d 331, 168 N.E.2d 64 (1960). Bradley involved the murder of a 14-year-old boy. Five months after his death, Look magazine published the fir......
  • Young v. That Was The Week That Was
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    • June 9, 1969
    ...Co., 306 F.2d 9 (5th Cir. 1962). See also Rozhon v. Triangle Publications, Inc., 230 F.2d 359 (7th Cir. 1956); Bradley v. Cowles Magazines, Inc., 168 N.E.2d 64 (Ill.App. 1960).2 The defendants have also asserted that the privacy of the plaintiffs was not invaded since the plaintiffs were no......
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