Pavesich v. New England Life Ins. Co

CourtSupreme Court of Georgia
Writing for the CourtCOBB
PartiesPAVESICH. v. NEW ENGLAND LIFE INS. CO. et al.
Decision Date03 March 1905

122 Ga. 190
50 S.E. 68

PAVESICH.
v.
NEW ENGLAND LIFE INS.
CO. et al.

Supreme Court of Georgia.

March 3, 1905.


PRIVACY—INFRINGEMENT OF RIGHT—CONSTITUTIONAL LAW—RIGHT OF ACTION—LIBERTY OF THE PRESS—LIBEL—WAIVER.

1. The absence for a long period of time of a precedent for an asserted right is not conclusive evidence that the right does not exist. Where the case is new in principle the courts cannot give a remedy, but, where the case is new only in instance, it is the duty of the courts to give relief by the application of recognized principles.

2. A right of privacy is derived from natural law, recognized by municipal law, and its existence can be inferred from expressions used by commentators and writers on the law as well as judges in decided cases.

3. The right of privacy is embraced within the absolute rights of personal security and personal liberty.

4. Personal security includes the right to exist, and the right to the enjoyment of life while existing, and is invaded not only by a deprivation of life, but also by a deprivation of those things which are necessary to the enjoyment of life according to the nature, temperament, and lawful desires of the individual.

5. Personal liberty includes not only freedom from physical restraint, but also the right "to be let alone"; to determine one's mode of life, whether it shall be a life of publicity or of privacy; and to order one's life and manage one's affairs in a manner that may be most agreeable to him so long as he does not violate the rights of others or of the public.

6. Liberty of speech and of the press, when exercised within the bounds of the constitutional guaranties, are limitations upon the exercise of the right of privacy.

7. The Constitution declares that the liberty of speech and of the press must not be abused, and the law will not permit the right of privacy to be asserted in such a way as to curtail or restrain such liberties. The one may be used to keep the other within lawful bounds, but neither can be lawfully used to destroy the other.

[Ed. Note.—For cases in point, see vol. 10, Cent. Dig. Constitutional Law, § 172.]

8. The right of privacy may be waived, either expressly or by implication, except as to those matters which law or public policy demands shall be kept private, but a waiver authorizes an invasion of the right only to such an extent as is to be necessarily inferred from the purpose for which the waiver is made. A waiver for one purpose, and in favor of one person or class, does not authorize an invasion for all purposes, or by all persons and classes.

9. One who seeks public office, or any person who claims from the public approval or patronage, waives his right of privacy to such an extent that he cannot restrain or impede the pub-lie in any proper investigation into the conduct of his private life which may throw light upon the question as to whether the public should bestow upon him the office which he seeks, or accord to him the approval or patronage which he asks. The holder of public office makes a waiver of a similar nature, and subjects his life at all times to closest scrutiny, in order that it may be determined whether the rights of the public are safe in his hands. 10. The conclusion and reasoning of the majority in the case of Roberson v. Rochester Folding Box Company, 64 N. E. 442, 59 L. R.

A. 478, 89 Am. St. Rep. 828, 171 N. Y. 540, criticised and disapproved; and the reasoning of Judge Gray, in his dissenting opinion, adopted and followed.

11. The publication of a picture of a person, without his consent, as a part of an advertisement, for the purpose of exploiting the publisher's business, is a violation of the right of privacy of the person whose picture is reproduced, and entitles him to recover, without proof of special damage.

12. The publication of one's picture, without his consent, for such a purpose, is in no sense an exercise of the liberty of speech or of the press, within the meaning of those terms as used in the Constitution.

13. Words which are harmless in themselves may be libelous in the light of extrinsic facts.

14. A publication which imputes to one language which is known to those among whom he lives to contain statements which are false is libelous.

15. A publication of an advertisement of an insurance company, containing a person's picture, and a statement that the person has policies of insurance with the company, and is pleased with his investment, when in fact he has no such policies, is libelous, as having a tendency to create the impression among those who know the facts that the person whose picture is reproduced has told a willful falsehood, either gratuitously or for a consideration.

16. The petition was good as against a general demurrer, and the objections raised in the special demurrer were without merit.

(Syllabus by the Court.)

Error from City Court of Atlanta; H. M. Reid, Judge.

Action by Paolo Pavesich against the New England Life Insurance Company and others. From an order sustaining a demurrer to the complaint, plaintiff brings error. Reversed.

Paolo Pavesich brought an action against the New England Mutual Life Insurance Company, a nonresident corporation, Thomas B. Lumpkin, its general agent, and J. Q. Adams, a photographer, both residing in the city of Atlanta. The allegations of the petition were, in substance, as follows: In an issue of the Atlanta Constitution, a newspaper published in the city of Atlanta, there appeared a likeness of the plaintiff, which would be easily recognized by his friends and acquaintances, placed by the side of the likeness of an ill-dressed and sickly looking person. Above the likeness of the plaintiff were the words: "Do it now. The man who did." Above the likeness of the other person were the words: "Do it while you can. The man who didn't" Below the two pictures

[50 S.E. 69]

were the words: "These two pictures tell their own story." Under the plaintiff's picture the following appeared: "In my healthy and productive period of life I bought insurance in the New England Mutual Life Insurance Co., of Boston, Mass., and to-day my family is protected and I am drawing an annual dividend on my paid-up policies." Under the other person's picture was a statement to the effect that he had not taken insurance, and now realized his mistake. The statements were signed, "Thomas B. Lumpkin, General Agent." The picture of the plaintiff was taken from a negative obtained by the defendant Lumpkin, or some one by him authorized, from the defendant Adams, which was used with his consent, and with knowledge of the purpose for which it was to be used. The picture was made from the negative without the plaintiff's consent, at the instance of the defendant insurance company, through its agent, Lumpkin. Plaintiff is an artist by profession, and the publication is peculiarly offensive to him. The statement attributed to plaintiff in the publication is false and malicious. He never made any such statement, and has not, and never has had, a policy of life insurance with the defendant company. The publication is malicious, and tends to bring plaintiff into ridicule before the world, and especially with his friends and acquaintances, who know that he has no policy in the defendant company. The publication is a "trespass upon plaintiff's right of privacy, and was caused by breach of confidence and trust reposed" in the defendant Adams. The prayer was for damages in the sum of $25,000. The petition was demurred to generally, and specially on the grounds that there was a misjoinder of defendants and causes of action, that no facts were set forth from which malice can be inferred, and that no special damages were alleged. The court sustained the general demurrer, and the plaintiff excepted.

Westmoreland Bros, and M. M. Hirsh, for plaintiff in error.

J. L. Hopkins & Sons, for defendants in error.

COBB, J. 1-12. The petition really contains two counts—one for a libel, and the other for a violation of the plaintiff's right of privacy. There was no special demurrer raising the objection that the counts were not properly arranged, as there was in Cooper v. Portner Brewing Company, 112 Ga. 894, 38 S. E. 91; and hence the petition is to be dealt with in relation to its substance, without reference to its form.

We will first deal with the general demurrer to the second count, which claimed damages on account of an alleged violation of the plaintiff's right of privacy. The question therefore to be determined is whether an individual has a right of privacy which he can enforce, and which the courts will protect against invasion. It is to be conceded that prior to 1890 every adjudicated case, both in this country and in England, which might be said to have involved a right of privacy, was not based upon the existence of such right, but was founded upon a supposed right of property, or a breach of trust or confidence, or the like, and that therefore a claim to a right of privacy, independent of a property or contractual right, or some right of a similar nature, had, up to that time, never been recognized in terms in any decision'. The entire absence for a long period of time, even for centuries, of a precedent for an asserted right should have the effect to cause the courts to proceed with caution before recognizing the right, for fear that they may thereby invade the province of the lawmaking power; but such absence, even for all time, is not conclusive.of the question as to the existence of the right. The novelty of the complaint is no objection, when an injury cognizable by law is shown to have been inflicted on the plaintiff. In such a case, "although there be no precedent, the common law will judge according to the law of nature and the public good." Where the case is new in principle, the courts have no authority to give a remedy, no matter how great the grievance; but where the case is only new in instance, and the sole question is upon the application of a recognized...

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256 practice notes
  • International Trade Administration,
    • United States
    • Federal Register July 24, 2000
    • July 24, 2000
    ...Louisiana, Montana, South Carolina, and Washington have broader privacy protection.'') \21\ Pavesich v. New England Life Ins. Co., 50 S.E. 68 (Ga. 1905) \22\ Id., at 69. \23\ An electronic search of the Westlaw database found 2703 reported cases of civil actions in state courts that pertain......
  • Ali v. Playgirl, Inc., No. 78 Civ. 445.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • March 3, 1978
    ...of plaintiff's name would injure his reputation or property. Id., at 547-550, 64 N.E. 442); Pavesich v. New England Life Insurance Co., 122 Ga. 190, 50 S.E. 68 (1905) (finding right of privacy "derived from natural law," id. at 70, and analyzing English cases); Brittan, The Right of Privacy......
  • Y.G. v. Jewish Hosp. of St. Louis, No. 57675
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • July 12, 1990
    ...See collection of law journals in Prosser and Keeton, Torts, Sec. 117 at 850. 6 The court relied on Pavesich v. New Eng. Life Ins. Co., 122 Ga. 190, 50 S.E. 68 (1905); Vanderbilt v. Mitchell, 72 N.J.Eq. 910, 67 Atl. 97 (1907); and the "very able" law journal article of Warren and Brandeis. ......
  • Flake v. Greensboro News Co, No. 744.
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • February 2, 1938
    ...J., concurred in by Bartlett and Haight, JJ. The subject is likewise dealt with at length in Pavesich v. New England Life Insurance Co, 122 Ga. 190, 50 S.E. 68, 78, 69 L.R.A. 101, 106 Am.St.Rep. 104, 2 Ann.Cas. 561. All former decisions are likewise fully discussed in this opinion, in which......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
241 cases
  • Ali v. Playgirl, Inc., No. 78 Civ. 445.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • March 3, 1978
    ...of plaintiff's name would injure his reputation or property. Id., at 547-550, 64 N.E. 442); Pavesich v. New England Life Insurance Co., 122 Ga. 190, 50 S.E. 68 (1905) (finding right of privacy "derived from natural law," id. at 70, and analyzing English cases); Brittan, The Right of Privacy......
  • Y.G. v. Jewish Hosp. of St. Louis, No. 57675
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • July 12, 1990
    ...See collection of law journals in Prosser and Keeton, Torts, Sec. 117 at 850. 6 The court relied on Pavesich v. New Eng. Life Ins. Co., 122 Ga. 190, 50 S.E. 68 (1905); Vanderbilt v. Mitchell, 72 N.J.Eq. 910, 67 Atl. 97 (1907); and the "very able" law journal article of Warren and Brandeis. ......
  • Flake v. Greensboro News Co, No. 744.
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • February 2, 1938
    ...J., concurred in by Bartlett and Haight, JJ. The subject is likewise dealt with at length in Pavesich v. New England Life Insurance Co, 122 Ga. 190, 50 S.E. 68, 78, 69 L.R.A. 101, 106 Am.St.Rep. 104, 2 Ann.Cas. 561. All former decisions are likewise fully discussed in this opinion, in which......
  • Crump v. Beckley Newspapers, Inc., No. 15804
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 10, 1983
    ...Mass. 160, 187 N.E. 292 (1933); Dunlop v. Dunlop Rubber Co., 1 Ir.Rep. 280 (1920); Pavesich v. [173 W.Va. 709] New England Life Ins. Co., 122 Ga. 190, 50 S.E. 68 (1904); Morrison v. Smith, 177 N.Y. 366, 69 N.E. 725 (1904); De Sando v. New York Herald Co., 88 A.D. 492, 85 N.Y.S. 111 (1903); ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
4 books & journal articles
  • Thorny Copyright Issues-Development on the Horizon?
    • United States
    • Landslide Nbr. 13-1, September 2020
    • September 9, 2020
    ...& Brandeis, supra note 1, at 195. 10. See Wessel & Roesler, supra note 1, at 1. 11. See, e.g. , Pavesich v. New England Life Ins. Co., 50 S.E. 68 (Ga. 1905); Roberson v. Rochester Folding Box Co., 64 N.E. 442 (N.Y. 1902); see also N.Y. Civ. Rights Law §§ 50–51. For a less abbreviated histor......
  • Combating Internet Trolls: The Right of Publicity and Section 230
    • United States
    • Landslide Nbr. 13-1, September 2020
    • September 9, 2020
    ...& Brandeis, supra note 1, at 195. 10. See Wessel & Roesler, supra note 1, at 1. 11. See, e.g. , Pavesich v. New England Life Ins. Co., 50 S.E. 68 (Ga. 1905); Roberson v. Rochester Folding Box Co., 64 N.E. 442 (N.Y. 1902); see also N.Y. Civ. Rights Law §§ 50–51. For a less abbreviated histor......
  • What's in a Name, Likeness, and Image? The Case for a Federal Right of Publicity Law
    • United States
    • Landslide Nbr. 13-1, September 2020
    • September 9, 2020
    ...& Brandeis, supra note 1, at 195. 10. See Wessel & Roesler, supra note 1, at 1. 11. See, e.g. , Pavesich v. New England Life Ins. Co., 50 S.E. 68 (Ga. 1905); Roberson v. Rochester Folding Box Co., 64 N.E. 442 (N.Y. 1902); see also N.Y. Civ. Rights Law §§ 50–51. For a less abbreviated histor......
  • Freedom of the Newspaper Press
    • United States
    • ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, The Nbr. 200-1, November 1938
    • November 1, 1938
    ...182. This case, however, is presumed to 16 Pavesich v. New England Life Insurance Co., have been settled out of court; the opinion was 122 Ga. 190. See also opinion of O’Dunne, written in ruling on a demurrer and the case in Graham v. Baltimore Post cit. infra. never came to trial. 66 used ......

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