Invasion of Privacy Claim Against Howard Stern Thrown Out

By William Vogeler, Esq. on March 14, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Nothing is sacred on Howard Stern's radio show.

Famous for making fun of everyone from politicians to prostitutes, Stern will do most anything for ratings. Except broadcast Judith Barrigas' tax information; that was a mistake.

Or so said his lawyers in Barrigas v. United States of America. Barrigas sued Stern for invasion of privacy, and the judge dismissed it.

"King of All Media"

Stern, the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" for his ventures in radio, television, and movies, faded from the spotlight after he went to satellite radio a decade ago. In May 2015, he was on the air with an IRS agent.

Jimmy Forsythe was on hold when Judith Barrigas called him to discuss her tax liabilities. The agent didn't realize that the show was broadcasting the conversation, including the taxpayer's phone number.

She sued for negligence, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Stern countered with a motion to dismiss, which the judge granted.

"It is unclear how broadcasting the statements of a caller to a radio show, who vaguely discusses tax amounts and repayment terms of an unspecified third party, constitutes an intentional invasion of the third party's privacy," Judge Allison Burroughs said.

"Most Borrowing Job"

The judge said the broadcast did not identify the taxpayer or any specific information on air, except for her phone number. That may be a problem for the IRS, but not Stern.

During the show, the shock jock didn't seem to know what was going on. He -- and some of his 1.2 million listeners -- cracked jokes.

"It sounds like a raw deal," he quipped over the feed. At one point, the agent realized he was on the air.

"Dude, we just heard your whole transaction," Stern said. "What's going on, man? You got the most boring job, dude."

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