Readylink Healthcare v. Lynch, 440 F.3d 1118 (9th Cir. 2006)

Readylink Healthcare and its founder, sole shareholder and officer, Barry Treash, sued David Lynch and his law firm for invasion of privacy (public disclosure of private facts) based upon, among other things, Lynch’s posting on his website that Treash was a “convicted felon.” (Lynch had defended a former Readylink employee in trade secret litigation initiated by Readylink in state court.) In their federal court lawsuit against Lynch, Readylink and Treash alleged Lynch’s statements, while true, falsely represented that Readylink was currently involved in illegal activity because of Treash’s conviction 20 years before. Readylink and Treash argued that although the statements in question were in the public record, they were “not newsworthy and thus invaded Treash’s right to privacy under California law.” The district court disagreed and dismissed the invasion of privacy claim. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit certified the following question of law (among others) to the California Supreme Court pursuant to California Rule of Court 81: “Can there be liability under an invasion of privacy theory where a nonmedia defendant, with a commercial interest in or a malicious motive for publishing facts about a plaintiff’s past crimes, does so?”