UIC John Marshall Journal of Information Technology & Privacy Law


The First District Court of Appeals properly affirmed summary judgment on behalf of MarshCODE because Appellant failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact on his defamation claim. First, MarshCODE's accidental disclosure of information, which implied that Appellant participated in premarital sex or had a homosexual child, was not defamatory because an average person would not lower his estimation or be deterred from associating with Appellant based on such a statement. Second, no publication was made because MarshCODE did not act with negligence and was unaware of the program malfunction that resulted in the release of the information. Third, given that MarshCODE did not act with negligence, Appellant, as a public figure, cannot establish that MarshCODE acted with the required actual malice. Lastly, Appellant did not sustain the special harm required to maintain a defamation claim because he was only asked to take a temporary step back from his duties within the church. For these reasons, the appellate*156 court appropriately affirmed summary judgment for MarshCODE on Appellant's defamation claim. Appellant likewise failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact on his false light invasion of privacy claim. First, the release of Appellant's name to a single person did not constitute publicity, as it did not lead to a substantial certainty that such information would become public knowledge. Second, Appellant's misidentification as Billy Who's birth father was not sufficiently extraordinary to be considered highly offensive to a reasonable person. Third, MarshCODE did not act with actual malice: no evidence exists that MarshCODE even knew of the falsity of the information prior to its accidental release. Therefore, the lower court appropriately granted summary judgment regarding Appellant's false light claim. Appellant further failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact on his breach of contract claim. First, and most significantly, MarshCODE's privacy policy was not sufficiently definite to constitute a unilateral offer to contract. Even if the privacy policy amounted to a contract, Appellant did not perform his obligation when he moved from Marshall and failed to update his contact information. Lastly, MarshCODE did not breach its Study Participation Agreement because it reserved the right to revise its terms and conditions. Thus, the lower court properly granted summary judgment in favor of MarshCODE on Appellant's breach of contract claim.