A Federal Appeals Court just ruled that the Duggar sisters may proceed with their lawsuit against Springdale, Arkansas, and Washington County officials.
The four sisters— Jill Dillard, Jinger Vuolo, Jessa Seewald and Joy-Anna Forsyth— first sued the city, county and police officials back in 2017, for allowing information in legal documents that detailed the sexual abuse they endured as children at the hands of their brother, Josh Duggar, to be released publicly. The publishers of In Touch Weekly, which released the bombshell report in 2015, was also named in the Duggar girls’ lawsuit, but that part of the lawsuit was dismissed in October 2017.
Although the girls’ names and some info was redacted in the documents before they were released to the magazine in 2015, the girls argued that identifying info and other confidential information was left in-tact and blasted to the world, making it easy for the public to figure out who Josh’s victims were.
Earlier this week, the appeals court ruled that the info left intact on the released documents– such as the victims’ ages and addresses— was info the girls had a “legitimate expectation would remain private.”
The three officials– former Springdale Police Chief Kathy O’Kelley, Springdale City Attorney Ernest Cate and Major Rick Hoyt (of the Washington County Sherriff’s Office)– attempted to have themselves dismissed from the case in October 2017, but a U.S. District Judge denied their request. The three officials argued that they qualified for immunity from being sued— appealed to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which denied their appeal on Friday.
“The law provided fair notice to the appellants that releasing details of minors’ sexual abuse to a tabloid in a format predictably enabling the victims’ identification was not only inadvisable, but also unlawful. We conclude that it did,” the court’s opinion stated, according to Arkansas Online. “Inexact boundaries are boundaries nonetheless. The particular facts alleged here are not near the periphery of the right to privacy but at its center.”
The appeals court wrote that immunity only protects officials who respond “incorrectly in confusing situations.” The appeals court ruled that this is not what happened in the Duggar sisters’ case.
“[Immunity does not] protect unreasonable mistakes or plain incompetence,” the court wrote.
“The information released by the officials involved ‘highly personal matters representing the most intimate aspect of human affair’ and the[Duggar sisters] had a legitimate expectation of privacy in that information,” according to the opinion. “Not only did police promise the [Duggar sisters] that the information would remain private, but Arkansas law also supported this expectation of privacy. In sum, the information was inherently private and is therefore entitled to constitutional protection.”
In a statement released Friday following the appeal court’s ruling, Springdale officials reminded the public that this is just the beginning stages of the case.
“Today’s opinion concerns whether the allegations of the plaintiffs’ complaint can sustain a cause of action and whether the individual defendants at this early stage of the litigation are entitled to qualified immunity,” the release said. “This is not a decision on the merits of the case.”
The Duggar sisters’ lawsuit will now continue in U.S. District Court in Fayetteville, Arkansas Online reports.
After the magazine released the documents in 2015, Jill and Jessa appeared on a special and tearfully stated that they were shocked and horrified when they found out the documents were circulating the Internet. (Josh’s fifth victim, a babysitter who is not related to him, has yet to come forward. In the Summer of 2016, it was reported that she was ready to go public, but that never happened.)
Although the Duggar girls’ lawsuit can proceed in court, their brother Josh’s lawsuit was shut down for the last time in April. An Arkansas judge ruled that the former 19 Kids & Counting star is no longer allowed to sue Washington County or the City of Springdale for invasion of privacy, after the disgraced Duggar son tried— and failed—to file multiple lawsuits against the officials.
RELATED STORY: Over It! Judge Rules That Josh Duggar is Never Allowed to Sue His Hometown or County Again For Invasion of Privacy, Following Multiple Dismissed Lawsuits
(Photos: TLC, Instagram)
Glad they’re getting a chance at justice. While their parents should be held accountable along with their brother, they deserve to not have such a horrible thing brought out to the public. They are the victims here.
People should know by now that if you want privacy (of any kind) than they should not make their lives public because ANYTHING that happens in private WILL be made public!!! It’s common knowledge/sense. But this family has neither (knowledge nor sense)!!! They got what they deserved!!!!
Good! They should never have been exposed like that. They had the right to privacy like every other victim of abuse. If not more so because of their public exposure. I hope the win the lawsuit.
Good for them!! This isn’t about holding their parents responsible (which absolutely should happen,too). This is a governing agency that released documents that exposed victims. They absolutely should be held accountable, and hopefully sends a message that they cannot sell “juicy gossip” to tabloids.
I agree. This is not about Josh whatsoever. He absolutely deserves to be punished for what he did, but his sisters are victims. Just because they are famous and on tv, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get the same standard that other victims get. I am no Duggar fan either. These girls have had no support or councelling over what happened to them, they live in such a cult where it doesn’t even matter if they actually have feelings about it. But really, it was 100% easy to tell who Josh’s victims were from the papers, and that is wrong no matter who you are.
Any settlement money the girls get will be shared amongst the whole family, including Josh. They are like a freaking cult.
Right? It probably goes directly to Jim Blob! Ugh!
I never understood why the police did not press charges regardless of what the parents wanted? The girls gave detailed statements and he also admitted it was true.
OliviaJoy1995, you’re absolutely right!
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Anything to get money,,,this family. May God have mercy!! Gezzz,,,always has to be in the spotlight! Should have never been kept quiet for as long as it was. Sick,,,,just sick!!
It’s kind off odd they feel like an injustice occurred because their identities were potentially revealed in a magazine article, yet their own parents didn’t want their brother prosecuted at all, and they are fine with that. Sue your parents too for not doing their due diligence by protecting you all from your brother to begin with.
OMG I totally agree. Priorities much?
You have to realize how these girls grew up. It’s not surprising that they don’t feel their parents or josh did anything wrong. They had zero support or councelling over it. They are a product of Jim Bob and Michelle’s backward parenting and religious views. This lawsuit isn’t about priorities or how they were taught to deal with it, it’s about releasing the names of underage victims to a tabloid. It’s wrong, even if the victims don’t understand what happened is wrong.
The greedy ass Duggars are more concerned about this money grab than protecting the girls from Josh. Girls are like livestock to them. They have no rights in Duggarland. Jim Bob just wants a multi million settlement he couldn’t careless about the girls privacy being violated.