Florida High Court Rejects 'False Light' As a Cause of Action

Edith Rapp, a Jewish resident of Palm Beach County, Fla., was angry when her stepson, an employee of Jews for Jesus Inc., wrote a newsletter article claiming Rapp had prayed with him and agreed to receive Jesus as her savior.

Rapp sued Jews for Jesus in 2003, saying the story falsely implied that she had accepted the organization's teachings, in contradiction with her Jewish faith. She sued for defamation and false light invasion of privacy, asserting the article embarrassed her in the eyes of the Jewish community. She requested a retraction by the organization and an unspecified damage award.

Remedy Remains

Although the high court dismissed false light as a viable cause of action, it remanded Rapp's defamation claim back to the 4th District Court, directing the court to use the reaction of a "substantial and respectable minority" of the community as a standard to measure the harm the article caused Rapp. The sole dissenter, Justice Charles Wells, objected to this language, arguing that the standard of a "substantial and respectable minority" is too vague to be fairly applied. There is no way to know how many it takes to constitute a "substantial" number or what constitutes a "respectable minority," he wrote.

Judith Crown

Bio and more articles

Join the Conversation

Advertisement. Closing in 15 seconds.