Tollefson v. Price

CourtSupreme Court of Oregon
Citation247 Or. 398,430 P.2d 990
Parties, 33 A.L.R.3d 149 Roger TOLLEFSON and Ruth Tollefson, also known as Mrs. Roger Tollefson, husband and wife, Appellants, v. Elmer R. PRICE and Margaret Price, husband and wife, doing business under the firm name and style of Toledo Feed and Seed; and Pioneer Service Company, Inc., an Oregon corporation; and Elmer R. Price, individually and as Editor and Publisher of the Lincoln County Leader, Respondents.
Decision Date23 August 1967

Dan W. Poling, Newport, argued the cause for appellants. With him on the brief was James H. Lewelling, Newport.

Sidney A. Milligan, Eugene, argued the cause for respondents. With him on the brief was Gordon L. Macpherson, Toledo.


FORT, Justice pro tem.

Plaintiffs filed a complaint in two counts, each charging an invasion of privacy arising out of the publication of a notice by the defendants respecting money alleged to be due from Mrs. Tellefson. A demurrer to the complaint based on the absence of facts sufficient to state a cause of action was sustained. When the plaintiffs declined to plead further, judgment was rendered against them. They appeal.

Plaintiff husband claims to have suffered embarrassment and humiliation because of the publications respecting his wife. For the purpose of the demurrer, if either plaintiff states a cause of action it must be overruled.

The defendant published in the 'Farmers Feed and Seed Store' a document stating in part:


'The following Judgments, Claims, Notes and Accounts are offered * * * for sale to the highest bidder. The right is reserved to reject in full, or in part, any offer:


(Names of 28 persons including 'Mrs. Roger Tollefson')

'The above listed Judgments, Claims, Notes and Accounts are guaranteed by the owner to be just, correct and undisputed.'

It then alleges this notice was published 'unlawfully and maliciously * * * without right or legal authority,' 'that the claim or accoung against plaintiff * * * is disputed' and that 'the defendants * * * well knew that said claim or account was and is disputed by plaintiffs.'

After alleging 'humiliation,' 'exposure to public contempt and ridicule,' it further alleges that the 'acts of the defendants * * * in placing and publishing said notice or sign * * * were wilful and intentional and committed for the purpose of harrassing (sic), vexing and annoying the plaintiff's mentally, and that said acts * * * were so reckless, wanton, irresponsible, wilful and malicious that defendants * * * should be punished by assessment against them * * * of exemplary damages * * *.'

A second cause of action is then alleged because of the publication of the above document as an advertisement in the local paper. The complaint also alleges that one of the defendants, Elmer R. Price, is the sole owner of the newspaper and with his wife is the owner of the aforementioned feed and seed store.

The defendants' demurrer admits the allegations and every reasonable intendment to be drawn therefrom.

In Hinish v. Meier & Frank Co., 166 Or. 482, at page 506, 113 P.2d 438, at page 448, 138 A.L.R. 1 (1941), this court stated:

'* * * (I)t is well settled that where the wrongful act constitutes an infringement of a legal right, mental suffering may be recovered for, if it is the direct, proximate and natural result of the wrongful act. (Citations omitted.) Violation of the right of privacy is a wrong of that character.'

Dean Wade in his carefully considered article, Defamation and the Right of Privacy, 15 Vand.L.Rev. 1093, points out that the tort of invasion of the right of privacy is, like assault and defamation, in reality 'a part of the larger tort of intentional infliction of mental suffering.' He states further at page 1120:

'Privacy is now fully established as a legally protected right in the United States. Of the four recognized types of invasion of the right of privacy, the two which are most closely analogous to the right of reputation, as protected by the law of defamation, are 'public disclosure of embarrassing private facts about the plaintiff' and: 'publicity which places the plaintiff in a false light in the public eye.' These two differ only in that the first involves a true statement and the other a false statement. The hurt to the plaintiff's feelings, the damage to his sensibilities, is essentially the same in both cases * * *.' 1

Prosser, Torts § 112 at 835 (3d ed., 1964), states as a part of his discussion concerning the public disclosure of private facts as constituting an invasion of the right of privacy:

'* * * It is an invasion of his rights to publish in a newspaper that the plaintiff does not pay his debts, or to post a notice to that effect in a window on the public street, or to cry it aloud in the highway * * *.' 2

He points out that 'The facts disclosed to the public must be private facts, and not public ones' and that 'the matter made public must be one which would be offensive and objectionable to a reasonable man of ordinary sensibilities.'

He states that the elements necessary to establish an invasion of the right of privacy of the kind here involved are first that the disclosure of the private facts must be a public disclosure--that is that there must be publicity, and, second, the disclosure must be in the form of publicity of a highly objectionable kind. To constitute such a disclosure it must be public in the sense of communication either to the public generally or to a large number of persons as distinguished from one individual or a few. 3

Whether or not the conduct of the defendants in...

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28 cases
  • Briscoe v. Reader's Digest Association, Inc.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • April 2, 1971
    ...or the existence of business debts (Trammell v. Citizens News Co., Inc., Supra, 285 Ky. 529, 148 S.W.2d 708; Tollefson v. Price, Supra, 247 Or. 398, 430 P.2d 990). 17 The consequences of revelation in this case--ostracism, isolation, and the alienation of one's family--make all too clear ju......
  • Meyer v. 4-D Insulation Co., Inc., 78-2903-L-1
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Oregon
    • October 27, 1982
    ...Irrigation District, supra; (3) invasion of privacy, Hinish v. Meier & Frank Co., 166 Or. 482, 113 P.2d 438 (1941); Tollefson v. Price, 247 Or. 398, 430 P.2d 990 (1967); and (4) miscellaneous cases: unlawful disinterment of spouse's remains, Hovis v. City of Burns, 243 Or. 607, 415 P.2d 29 ......
  • Blair v. Bank of America, N.A., Case No. 10-cv-946-SI
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Oregon)
    • March 13, 2012
    ...of a highly objectionable kind. Flowers v. Bank of America, 67 Or. App. 791, 794, 679 P.2d 1385 (1984), citing Tollefson v. Price, 247 Or. 398, 401, 430 P.2d 990 (1967). The court concludes that Plaintiff's invasion of privacy claim must be dismissed against on the ground that Plaintiff has......
  • Cain v. Hearst Corp., D-4171
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • June 22, 1994
    ...383, 467 P.2d 399, 401 (1970); Gruschus v. Curtis Publishing Co., 342 F.2d 775, 776 (10th Cir.1965) (New Mexico law); Tollefson v. Price, 247 Or. 398, 430 P.2d 990, 991-92 (1967); Bennett v. Norban, 396 Pa. 94, 151 A.2d 476, 477-79 (1959); Todd v. South Carolina Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co., 2......
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