In today’s day and age, it is easy for anyone to install a hidden camera in a home setting for the purposes of monitoring their children or their spouse’s activities and to listen in on their conversations. It happens everyday and in some of those settings, it can violate the domestic violence laws of our state, which gives rise to the filing of a domestic violence complaint. As a result of a recent decision by our Supreme Court, that installation of a hidden video recording device can also give rise to a claim for damages in the domestic violence matter or in the divorce matter (called a Tevis Claim).
The claim is referred to as an “intrusion upon seclusion” and means that someone has intentionally concealed a hidden video recording device, or other “spying device” in an area of your home where you have an expectation of privacy. Upon discovery of that hidden video recording device, there’s now a presumption that an “intrusion upon seclusion” took place, which gives rise to a claim for damages.
As to the claim for damages, in the recent NJ Supreme Court case of Jaime Friedman v. Teodoro Martinez, a janitor set up hidden video recording devices in at least 4 of the building’s 15 women’s bathrooms. In deciding whether certain women could bring a claim for damages as a result of his actions, our Supreme Court focused on whether his placement of those hidden video recording devices in a private space was enough to establish an invasion of privacy without actual proof that he had recorded them. Our Supreme Court answered that question by holding that the discovery of the hidden video recording device alone may be sufficient for a claim for damages.
Lucy and Desi are going through a bad divorce and Desi agrees to move out of the house to reduce tensions. Yet, before moving out (and obviously without Lucy knowing), Desi installs several hidden video recording devices in Lucy’s bedroom and bathroom in efforts to discover whether Lucy is having an affair, to monitor Lucy’s private conversations in an effort to gain some type of tactical advantage in the divorce, and to be able to see Lucy naked.
Believe it or not, this type of behavior takes place every day and these types of devices can be easily purchased online through Amazon, eBay, and at a million other retailers. In this example, lets assume Lucy discovers one of these devices hidden in her bathroom and through the assistance of the police, they are able to track its installation back to Desi.
Under the recent pronouncement by our Supreme Court case, Lucy may now have a claim for damages against Desi based on this “intrusion upon seclusion.”
To be able to make out a case for damages, Lucy needs to prove that Desi knew that Lucy had an expectation of privacy in the location where Desi installed the hidden video recording device, and that a reasonable person, in Lucy’s shoes, would have been highly offended from such an invasion of privacy by Desi.
Two messages can be taken away from this new pronouncement by our Supreme Court. On one hand, this case opens the door to the ability to file claims for damages upon the discovery of a hidden recording device in your home. On the other hand, those considering installing these types of devices must tread with caution. If the purpose is simply to monitor the activities of their children, then it is important to discuss such installation with their spouse so that both parties are on the same page and the installation will not blow up and result in needless and expensive litigation.