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Sipple v. Chronicle Publishing Co.

Court of Appeal of California
201 Cal. Rptr. 665 (1984)


Sara Jane Moore shot at President Gerald Ford, attempting to kill him. Oliver Sipple (plaintiff) grabbed Moore’s arm as she was firing the gun, potentially saving Ford’s life. Sipple was publicly regarded as a hero for his actions, which were publicized nationwide. The San Francisco Chronicle published an article about Sipple, which indicated that Sipple was gay. Subsequently, other newspapers across the country published articles making the same claim. Sipple brought suit against Chronicle Publishing Company and several other newspapers (defendants) for invasion of privacy. Specifically, Sipple claimed that the defendants tortiously publicized his homosexuality, a fact that, until the publications, was private. At trial, the newspapers presented evidence that Sipple’s homosexuality was known throughout San Francisco and other cities prior to publication. The newspapers claimed that Sipple often participated in activities within the gay community and frequented gay bars. Additionally, Sipple’s name and association with the gay community had previously been published in a number of gay publications. Sipple acknowledged that he would not hide his sexual orientation if someone asked him about it. The trial court granted the newspapers summary judgment. Sipple appealed.

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Holding and Reasoning (Caldecott, J.)

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