August 15, 2006
Case Law Development: Wiretaps and Videotapes of Spouse as Torts
The New Jersey court recently addressed a divorce action which included Husband's allegations that Wife had violated the New Jersey wiretap act by tape recording home telephone conversations and that she had violated his privacy by placing hidden video cameras in the home office at their New Jersey marital residence and in the bedroom of their New York apartment. The trial court awarded Husband statutory damages of $1000 for the phone wiretap and, for the invasion of privacy claim, $1 in nominal damages (as there had been no proof of actual damages) and $125,000 in punitive damages.
The New Jersey Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that award was erroneous. As to the New Jersey home office, there was no finding that Husband had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the home office, as the whole family freely used the room. As to the New York apartment, New York law provided no common law or statutory right of privacy. Moreover, even if there were a right of action, the court held that before punitive damages can be awarded, there must be a finding of compensatory damages, for which there was no proof here.
Colon v. Colon, (August 11, 2006)
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