Duggar Sisters Sue Police for Violating Privacy Rights

By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. on December 17, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Duggar family from "19 Kids and Counting" had their family's dirty laundry aired concerning one brother molesting four sisters, much to the family's disappointment and dismay. In the months following the release of the news, their show was canceled, and their brother, Josh, entered rehab. 

Now the Duggar sisters want payback. Four Duggar sisters are suing three Arkansas sheriff's deputies for leaking private information about their sex abuse claims related to their brother, Josh Duggar. The deputies are petitioning the federal court to allow them liability protection under the shield of qualified immunity. This petition was denied in the lower court, and now the deputies are appealing this decision to the Eighth Circuit.

Molestation Information Shared by Police Officers

Back in 2015, four of the Duggar sisters, Jill, Jessa, Jinger, and Joy, spoke with investigators about their brother, Josh, molesting them years ago. This report stemmed from a 2006 investigation into an anonymous tip alleging that Josh Duggar molested multiple girls in 2002 and 2003. At the time of the 2006 investigation, all four girls were still minors, but Josh was over 18. When the Duggar sisters spoke with investigators in 2015, they were assured that the information would be kept confidential, and only shared with police and social services. However, In Touch magazine found out about the investigation, and filed a Freedom of Information Act to obtain the police files. The police subsequently turned the redacted files over, though it was clearly not too difficult to determine via context what words had been redacted. In Touch subsequently published numerous articles about the molestation and the investigation.

Freedom of Information Act Does Not Apply to Minors

As it turns out, according to Arkansas law, the Freedom of Information Act does not apply to information collected from minors, and the information released by the officers to In Touch was collected in the 2006 investigation. Thus, the girls claim, the disclosure violated their privacy. Though it may have seemed reasonable for the officers to comply with the Freedom of Information Act request, it turns out that they were wrong. Current Arkansas law states that if it was reasonable for a police officer to release information that they in fact shouldn't, they can seek qualified immunity from the liability. However, that "reasonable factor" in the law was not in effect when the officers actually released the redacted files.

Duggar Sisters Want to Protect Future Abuse Victims

Though the Duggar sisters had originally sued In Touch magazine, Washington County, Arkansas, the city of Springdale, and the three officers, for invasion of privacy, seeking damages, the case was dismissed against everyone except the officers. The sisters claim that they aren't suing for the money so much as the precedent to protect all children who are victims of abuse.

If you feel your privacy has been violated, contact a local personal injury attorney. No one deserves to have their private information publicized. Everyone has their story to tell, and it is their story alone. If you are unsure if you have a case, contact an attorney today. You may be able to have your case evaluated at no cost, so that you can determine if a legal course of action is right for you.

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