Four sisters in the Duggar family have filed an invasion of privacy lawsuit as a result of the publication of articles that revealed that their brother, Josh Duggar, had been accused of molesting children.
Jill Duggar Dillard, Jessa Duggar Seewald, Jinger Duggar Vuolo and Joy Duggar have sued the city of Springdale, Washington County, various public officials and the publishers of InTouch Weekly for revealing their identities. They said the matter should have been confidential.
The initial report identified Josh Duggar, but not the names of those he might have molested. Subsequent reporting indicated he’d molested sisters and a babysitter.
The stories brought to an end “19 and Counting,” the TV series about the family of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. But Jill Dillard and Jessa Seewald later began another reality series, “Jill and Jessa: Counting On.” The four sisters collaborated in a book, “Growing Up Duggar.”
The lawsuit was filed in federal court for the western district of Arkansas. Their attorneys include Sarah Coppola Jewell and Shawn Daniels of Fayetteville. Says the suit:
As a direct and proximate result of Defendants’ misconduct, Plaintiffs endured harsh and unwarranted public scrutiny. Defendants’ actions forced Plaintiffs to relive painful memories and experiences that occurred almost ten years prior, resulting in Plaintiffs suffering severe mental anguish and distress. Plaintiffs were also subject to the humiliation and extreme mental anguish of being publicly identified nation and world-wide as being victims of sexual abuse as minors and having the details of the most private and painful aspects of their lives released and published to friends, associates, and tens of millions of people throughout the United States and world.
The lawsuit provides some detail of how the case came to be investigated in 2006. It also seems to imply that InTouch may have been helped in obtaining Springdale police records because of a purported friendship between then-Police Chief Kathy O’Kelley and Carolyn Witherspoon, a partner in the law firm that filed the Freedom of Information Act request that dislodged the police report. The lawsuit said plaintiffs believe official leaks helped publication of the initial account because details appeared on the publication’s website before official responses to FOI requests had been made. When reports were released, they weren’t sufficiently redacted to prevent identification of the daughters.
The unredacted information released to the media for the express purpose of publication included Jim Bob Duggar’s and Michelle Duggar’s names, the family’s current and former address, and other personal details about each individual victim. To compound Plaintiffs’ humiliation, the Police Department released the improperly-redacted Offense Report to the public containing the full descriptions of Plaintiffs’ and their siblings’ confidential interviews with Investigator Taylor. Thus, each Plaintiff was not only obviously identifiable from the facts publicized by Defendants, but each Plaintiff was forced to endure the publication of graphic descriptions about their molestation.