Catsouras v. Department of the California Highway Patrol
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Christos Catsouras, et al., v. Department of the California Highway Patrol, et al., California Superior Court case number 07CC07817, is a case arguing that information posted on the internet for the "purposes of vulgar spectacle" are not protected forms of speech, in regards to the privacy of individuals from the government. The appeals case centered on whether the actions of the California Highway Patrol's officers, Thomas O'Donnell and Aaron Reich, who emailed crime-scene photos of the horrific fatal crash of Nicole Catsouras, daughter of the plaintiffs, to be disseminated on the internet, were legal and appropriate.
Opinion of the court
The lower court dismissed the lawsuit, arguing that there was no legal standing for the family to argue that their privacy had been violated with the publication of images of the decedent.
The appeals court found that the "publication of death images is another matter, however. How can a decedent be injured in his or her privacy by the publication of death images, which only come into being once the decedent has passed on? The dissemination of death images can only affect the living. As cases from other jurisdictions make plain, family members have a common law privacy right in the death images of a decedent, subject to certain limitations. The court erred in sustaining the demurrers of O'Donnell and Reich as to the invasion of privacy cause of action."
The opinion ruled that the family of the deceased have a right to privacy when the publication of photos of the deceased will cause emotional distress.