False light differs from defamation primarily in being intended "to protect the plaintiff's mental or emotional well-being" rather than protect a plaintiff's reputation as is the case with the tort of defamation and in being about the impression created rather than being about true or false. If a publication of information is false, then a tort of defamation might have occurred. If that communication is not technically false but is still misleading then a tort of false light might have occurred.
"The specific elements of the Tort of FALSE LIGHT vary considerably even among those jurisdictions which do recognize this Tort. Generally, these elements consist of the following:
Some US state courts have ruled that false light lawsuits must be rewritten as defamation lawsuits in their states because their state's defamation law "covers the same ground" with respect to what those courts have ruled should be covered in avoiding a chilling effect on the media. But, "most states do allow false light claims to be brought, even where a defamation claim would suffice."
In the "case against Playgirl magazine, actor Jose Solano Jr. won a false light claim because of the placement of headlines around his cover photo. The court said the gist of the magazine's cover -- which featured headlines like "12 Sizzling Centerfolds Ready to Score With You" and "TV Guys. Primetime's Sexy Young Stars Exposed" -- put Solano in a false light by suggesting he might be pictured nude inside the magazine, even though the cover could not have given rise to a defamation claim."
"In another case, an entertainer who performed at an amusement park with a swimming pig brought defamation and false light claims based on the publication of her photo in Chic magazine. The photo was a true representation of the woman and her pig, so it could not give rise to a defamation claim. But her false light claim succeeded because the essence of the piece, which made the entertainer's act seem sexual and deviant, was held to be false."
Libel's first cousin: false light suits don't question the facts of a media report, just the implications of the facts.(Of Counsel: Florida Law)
Jul 01, 2007; First recognized as part of privacy law less than 100 years ago, the legal concept of "false light" establishes that a media...