Plaintiffs often make the mistake of alleging claims of false light on behalf of corporations. This often occurs when the case also involves individual plaintiffs, particularly in the context of internet defamation. It springs from a fundamental misunderstanding of the law.
But California does not recognize a claim for false light for corporations. “This is because the tort is of a personal character ‘concern(ing) one’s feelings and one’s own peace of mind.’” Ion Equipment Corp. v. Nelson (1980) 110 Cal.App.3d 868, 878. “A corporation is a fictitious person and has no ‘feelings’ which may be injured in the sense of the tort.” Id.
Despite the compelling logic of the Ion case, Plaintiffs have attempted to rely on H&M Associates v. City of El Centro (1980) 109 Cal.App.3d 399, which held that a partnership may maintain a cause of action for economic damages for invasion of privacy. However, H&M never determined whether a corporation may state a claim, so it does not apply. Indeed, as the Ion court observed, “there are no California cases recognizing that a corporation enjoys the right of privacy.” Id. And Ion was decided after H&M. And many District Courts have agreed with Ion.
Because California does not recognize a claim for false light for corporations, Plaintiffs cannot state a claim for such a tort. And because Plaintiffs cannot state a claim, they can expect to suffer either a demurrer without leave to amend or dismissal by anti-SLAPP motion.