Milwaukee Medical Record Privacy Lawyers
Wisconsin has come a long way since the 1956 dismissal of a complaint alleging that a tavern operator photographed unwitting female patrons in the bathroom and then displayed the photographs to male customers. After that court declared a right of privacy did not exist in Wisconsin, an invasion of privacy statute has since been enacted.
There are now three types of privacy invasions included in the Wisconsin statute: (1) physical intrusion into a place considered private; (2) the use of a person’s name or likeness for commercial purposes; and (3) disclosure of highly personal information in a reckless manner. Actions claiming “intrusion” protect an interest in being free from mental distress; actions alleging “appropriation” protect a proprietary interest in one’s name or image; and, actions under the “disclosure” branch of the privacy law protect an interest in reputation.
Wisconsin’s right of privacy statute aims to affect the behavior of individuals to encourage respect for personal dignity and basic rights. The right of privacy is “the right to be let alone.” It was meant to preserve an individual’s “inviolate personality,” a fragile and intangible thing, quite different than one’s property or person, but essential to preserve a “civilized” and “cultured” society, particularly in an evolving American democracy which placed a premium on the individual.
The essence of the “harm” perpetrated by an invasion of privacy is that a fundamental right, valued by society and protected by statute, has been disregarded. It is, like the harm flowing from discrimination or harassment due to some protected characteristic, an “intangible injury.”
An invasion of privacy claim may be maintained without a clear showing of resulting mental or physical harm. The four necessary elements to establish a cause of action for “disclosure” of private information are these: (1) there was a public disclosure of facts regarding the plaintiff; (2) the disclosed facts were not already in the public domain; (3) the facts once disclosed were of a type highly offensive to a reasonable person; and (4) the defendant acted unreasonably or recklessly as to whether there was a legitimate public interest in the disclosed facts, or had actual knowledge that none existed. Thus, a plaintiff bringing a privacy claim need not allege mental distress or emotional injury as a result of the invasion. Theoretically, even a disclosure of private information that injures the sensibilities of reasonable people—but which does not traumatize the plaintiff himself—is actionable under the privacy statute.
Historically, plaintiffs are offered the carrot of reasonable attorneys fees when legislation creating a cause of action is meant to promote some important public policy goal. To enforce the statutory objectives, the legislature enlists individuals as “private attorneys general” and permits recovery of reasonable litigation expenses to compensate plaintiffs for their trouble and expense. Particularly with respect to statutory violations which do not produce a tangible injury or offer no prospect of substantial compensatory damages, lawmakers know that the only way to encourage civil “enforcement” suits is to permit recovery of reasonable attorneys fees.
Finally, the privacy statute also entitles prevailing plaintiffs to equitable relief “to prevent and restrain such invasion, excluding prior restraint against constitutionally protected communication privately and through the public media.” Like the award of reasonable attorneys fees, the availability of equitable relief under the statute supports the idea that the legislature intended to vindicate interests that are not compensable through purely monetary judgments. Privacy claimants are entitled to a finding of liability even if the invasion did not result in financially compensable harm. A person alleging an invasion of privacy may bring an action merely to restore his personal dignity or reputation, and to prevent future invasions.
Contact Experienced Milwaukee Medical Record Protection Lawyers at Alan C. Olson & Associates today to discuss your case. Call (262) 785-9606