Maryland law: Privacy

David A. Szwak

Maryland law: Privacy

Postby David A. Szwak » Tue Oct 25, 2005 8:47 pm

162 F.Supp.2d 396

United States District Court,
D. Maryland.
CIV.A. No. DKC 2000-2253.
Aug. 30, 2001.

Consumer brought state court action for defamation, invasion of privacy, alleging that lender had falsely indicated in credit report that she had been involved in, or had filed bankruptcy. After removal to federal court, lender moved for summary judgment. The District Court, Chasanow, J., held that: (1) statement was true, and (2) consumer had no reasonable expectation of privacy in credit report.
Motion granted.

Presently pending and ready for resolution are the following motions: (1) Plaintiff's Motion for leave to file Amended Complaint; (2) A Motion by Defendant Homeside Lending, Inc. for Summary Judgment; (3) Plaintiff's Motion for leave to file surreply; and (4) Plaintiff's Motion for leave to file response to supplemental declaration. The issues are fully briefed, and the court now rules pursuant to Local Rule 105.6, no hearing being deemed necessary.


Plaintiff originally filed suit in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County in August 1999. Homeside Lending, Inc. removed the case to this court on July 24, 2000, after Plaintiff amended her complaint a fourth time and added a federal claim. In the Fourth Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleged that, in March, 1998, while in the process of purchasing a car, she learned that an adverse credit report contained comments "to the effect" that she had filed for bankruptcy, based on information from Bank One Mortgage Corporation, which was alleged to be a predecessor in interest to Homeside Lending, Inc. She was required to pay a higher interest rate as a result. Eventually, a correction was made. Later, in November 1998, the complaint alleged that Homeside had "redefamed" her "by falsely indicating, through her credit report, that she had been involved in, or had filed bankruptcy." Pl.'s Fourth Am. Compl. at 3. Despite agreements to correct the report, Homeside, by March 1999, was still maintaining the allegedly false report. The other defendants were alleged to have published false reports concerning the bankruptcy. That complaint contained claims for defamation, invasion of privacy, and violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

After some of the claims were dismissed, and the parties conducted discovery, Plaintiff resolved her claims against some of the defendants and moved for leave to amend to delete the claims against them. The remaining defendant, Homeside Lending, has moved for summary judgment as to the two remaining claims against it, one for defamation and the other for the intrusion upon seclusion type of invasion of privacy.

Maryland also recognizes a similar, but distinct tort of invasion of privacy. As stated in Allen v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., 76 Md.App. 642, 647- 48, 547 A.2d 1105, 1108 (1988):

Maryland currently recognizes four forms of invasion of privacy: 1. an unreasonable intrusion upon the seclusion of another; 2. an appropriation of the other's name or likeness; 3. unreasonable publicity given to the other's private life; and 4. publicity which unreasonably places the other in a false light before the public. Klipa v. Bd. of Educ. of Anne Arundel Co., 54 Md.App. 644, 652, 460 A.2d 601 (1983); Household Fin. Corp. v. Bridge, 252 Md. 531, 537, 250 A.2d 878 (1969).

Plaintiff asserts the first type of invasion of privacy, intrusion upon seclusion, inasmuch as the title to count II so recites. See Pl.'s Fourth Am. Compl. at 7. Unlike defamation, the intrusion on seclusion tort deals with the manner in which Defendant obtained the information rather than the truth or falsehood of the information itself. The elements of this tort are an intentional intrusion upon another person's solitude, seclusion, private affairs or concerns in a manner which would be highly offensive to a reasonable person. See Bailer v. Erie Ins. Exchange, 344 Md. 515, 526, 687 A.2d 1375, 1380-81 (1997), quoting Restatement (Second) of Torts § 652B. In addition, plaintiff must have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the source of the information. See Marrs v. Marriott Corp., 830 F.Supp. 274, 283 (D.Md.1992).

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals stated that "the gist of the offense is the intrusion into a private place or the invasion of a private seclusion that the plaintiff has thrown about his person or affairs." Pemberton v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., 66 Md.App. 133, 163, 502 A.2d 1101, 1116 (1986), citing Restatement (Second) of Torts 2d, § 652B, Comment c. In Pemberton, the court held that the circulation of Appellant's criminal records did not violate intrusion upon seclusion because they were not private facts that were made public. Id at 166, 502 A.2d 1101. Therefore, even though Plaintiff has not provided evidence that the information disseminated was false, she could still support a claim that the information about the bankruptcy came from a private source in which Plaintiff had a reasonable expectation of privacy. However, Plaintiff has put forth no evidence that any information about the mortgage loan came from a private source. Like the Appellant's criminal record in Pemberton, Plaintiff had no expectation of privacy in a report that an asset of hers was involved in a bankruptcy. Thus, her claim for invasion of privacy fails as a matter of law.

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