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Sipple v. Chronicle Publishing Co.

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Sipple brought suit against Chronicle Publishing Co. (Chronicle) for publishing articles claiming that Sipple was gay.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A person cannot be held liable for publicizing a fact of someone’s private life if the issue is of public concern.

    Facts.

    Moore shot at President Ford in attempts to kill him. Sipple grabbed Moore’s arm, potentially saving his life. Sipple brought suit against Chronicle Publishing Co. (Chronicle) for publishing articles claiming that Sipple was gay. The trial court granted judgment to Chronicle.

    Issue.

    Whether a person can be held liable for publicizing a fact of someone’s private life if the issue is of public concern?

    Held.

    Yes. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed. The publications were protected by the First Amendment because Sipple was a public figure and his sexuality was of legitimate public interest. Sipple’s sexual orientation was not so offensive that it shocked public notions of decency.

    Discussion.

    A person cannot be held liable for publicizing a fact of someone’s private life if the issue is of public concern. Publishers are protected for liability for invasion of privacy as long as the publication does not offend public notions of decency.


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