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Robins v. Conseco Finance Loan Company

February 04, 2003

BRIAN ROBINS, APPELLANT,
v.
CONSECO FINANCE LOAN COMPANY, RESPONDENT.



Beltrami County District Court File No. C7002149

Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Lansing , Judge, and Minge , Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

There is no cause of action for invasion of privacy by publication of private facts where a lender disseminates credit information about a prospective purchaser to the prospective seller and the prospective purchaser plays a role in the dissemination.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Minge, Judge

Affirmed

OPINION

Brian Robins seeks review of summary judgment in favor of Conseco Finance Loan Company dismissing his action for invasion of privacy by publication of private facts. Because Conseco's dissemination of information was limited to one person and Robins played a role in the dissemination, there was not an actionable publication of private facts. We affirm.

FACTS

In July 1999, appellant Brian Robins and his wife, Margaret Robins, applied to respondent Conseco Finance Loan Company to finance the purchase of a manufactured home from Robins' co-worker, Tammy Williams. After approximately one week, Robins had not heard from Conseco about the status of his loan. Robins and Williams discussed Conseco's unresponsiveness; Robins gave Williams permission to call Conseco to ask if any additional information was needed. Williams testified that she spoke with Nancy Jacobson, a loan processor for Conseco. Williams told Jacobson that she was the seller of the property that Robins wished to purchase. Jacobson informed Williams that Robins' loan had been denied because of a judgment and "something else out against" Robins. Robins was present when Williams made the call. When Williams told him the results of the call, he told her more about his credit history. This discussion occurred within earshot of other employees.

Conseco had a policy that prohibited giving confidential information about loan applicants, including credit histories over the telephone, even to the loan applicant. Jacobson stated she was aware of that policy and that she did not recall ever receiving a phone call from Williams, did not remember Robins' application, and did not believe that she would have given out confidential information to Williams or anyone else.

Robins stated that he was stunned that Conseco would release information regarding his credit history to Williams. Williams stated Robins appeared nonchalant, rather than shocked or mortified, about the disclosure. Williams also stated that at that time Robins gave her additional information that explained his poor credit history.

Williams admits that she told others about Conseco's denial of Robins' loan and Robins' explanation. In addition to telling several other employees at work, Williams also told her husband, parents, and two sisters. Except for one of her sisters, everyone that she told lived or worked in the same community.

Robins contends that his relationships with Williams, with his supervisor, and with other employees became strained following the disclosure of the denial of his mortgage application. Robins asserted that he never again felt the same level of respect from his co-workers or those he personally supervised. In addition, Robins stated that he has run into members of Williams' family in the community and has felt uncomfortable.

On December 1, 2000, Robins started this action against Conseco, alleging that Conseco violated his right of privacy by publication of private facts. Conseco moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Conseco alleged that publicity cannot be established when the communication is only to one person and the ...


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