Breach of Contract/Promissory Estoppel

  1. Introduction

    In a situation where parties have a contract involving consent to use an image of the plaintiff (be it for advertising purposes or otherwise), the release would likely bar plaintiff’s claim. However, in a situation where two parties agree to make private images of plaintiff on the condition that such images are kept private (and there is no release), then the plaintiff may have a claim for breach of contract/promissory estoppel.

  2. Elements

    1) A valid contract,1

    2) A material breach; and

    3) Damages.2

  3. Cases

    1. Doe v. Univision Television Group, Inc., d/b/a WLTV-Channel 23, 717 So. 2d 63 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1998)

      • Procedural Posture: On appeal from lower court’s dismissal of claims arising from allegations that defendant news channel violated her right to privacy, and other state laws.

      • Law: Invasion of privacy; Breach of contract and promissory estoppel

      • Facts: Plaintiff received plastic surgery abroad in Costa Rica and was badly scarred on her ears, though she kept it hidden. When news channel did a story on the dangers of obtaining plastic surgery abroad, plaintiff agreed to speak for the story, but she did so with the expectation that the defendant would hide her face and disguise her voice. The defendant did a poor job of both, and several people had recognized the plaintiff. She asserted that her ex-husband was among those who recognized her, and he had used the incident to ridicule her.

      • Outcome: The court reversed the dismissal of the claims. First, the court held that the plaintiff had a legitimate right to claim for invasion of privacy. The court held that it would remand for reinstatement of the claims.3 The court explained that plaintiff had relied on the defendant’s promise to hide her face/disguise her voice in agreeing to disclose her story about her scarring plastic surgery, and that she had been damaged by its inability to properly do so.

  4. Practice Pointers

    If the plaintiff relied on the defendant’s promise to keep private the images, or keep private the plaintiff’s identity, then the plaintiff may have a claim for breach of contract/promissory estoppel if the defendant fails to do so.

  1. If plaintiff claims promissory estoppel rather than breach of contract, the requisites of contract not yet met, but the promise should be enforced to avoid injustice.  Univision Television Group., Inc., 717 So. 2d at 65.  

  2. Schiffman v. Schiffman, 47 So .3d 925, 927 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2010). 

  3. Univision Television Group, 717 So.2d at 65.