Privacy Law

Family members sue networks after learning of loved ones' deaths by seeing bodies on TV

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AP California McKinney wildfire_800px

A firetruck drives along California Highway 96 as the McKinney wildfire burns in Klamath National Forest, California, on July 30, 2022. (Photo by Noah Berger/The Associated Press)

Family members of a California couple who died in the 2022 McKinney wildfire have sued two television networks for broadcasting images of their loved ones’ bodies.

The May 16 lawsuit alleges that camera operators acting on behalf of the networks “snuck onto private property” in July 2022 to film the bodies, which were in a car apparently used in an unsuccessful attempt to flee, Courthouse News Service reports.

The family members learned of the deaths from watching the news reports. They are seeking damages from the defendants for “intruding into the worst day of their lives and profiting from their grief,” according to the suit.

The plaintiffs allege trespass, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and a conspiracy “to gather the most eye-catching information about the fire.”

The network defendants are the American Broadcasting Companies Inc. and CBS Broadcasting Inc. The plaintiffs are the son and daughter of Charles and Judith Kays, who died in the car, and the sister of Charles Kays.

The trespass onto the property to film the dead couple “was despicable conduct” that subjected the plaintiffs to “cruel and unjust hardships,” the suit says.

The case is Huber v. Mason.

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