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Shield law protects emergency room outtakes from disclosure

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials

    NMU         NEW JERSEY         Confidentiality/Privilege    

Shield law protects emergency room outtakes from disclosure

  • New Jersey’s shield law protects non-confidential information and covers non-traditional news shows, the appellate court held.

July 18, 2003 — Reversing a decision by a New Jersey trial court judge, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, held Tuesday that the state’s shield law protects the New York Times Company from compelled disclosure of a videotape shot in an emergency room.

Adopting the position supported by the New Jersey Press Association and The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, the appellate court said the shield law is not limited in its application to confidential source information.

The court also said that the definition of “news media” in New Jersey’s shield law is not limited to traditional reports of significant public events. A show that presents “primarily human interest stories” but has “educational and public policy aspects” may be considered a form of “news media” under the law, the court said.

Finally, the court held that a plaintiff’s claim for invasion of privacy is not constitutionally based and, therefore, does not “trump” the shield law protections.

Film crews collecting footage for the television show “Trauma, Life in the ER” taped the treatment of Joseph Kinsella in the emergency room of Jersey Shore Medical Center in July 2001. Kinsella had fallen from the roof of a building he was spraying with insecticide.

The show was produced by NYT Television, a division of the New York Times Company. No footage of Kinsella was included in either of two episodes produced, according to court papers.

Kinsella sued NYT Television and New York Times Company claiming the filming invaded his privacy.

The appellate court’s decision means the suit will proceed without the video outtakes requested in pre-trial discovery by Kinsella. The Times Company will have to provide Kinsella with any videotape it intends to introduce as evidence at trial.

(Kinsella v. New York Times; Media counsel: Peter Banta, Winne, Banta, Rizzi, Hetherington & Basralian, Hackensack, N.J.) WT

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