Iowa Ruling Upholds Marital Invasion of Privacy Award
June 25th, 2013
The Iowa Supreme Court, in a December 2008 ruling, upheld a $22,500 invasion of privacy award to a wife whose husband had secretly videotaped the activities in her bedroom. The Court ruled that there is a reasonable expectation of privacy when you are in your bedroom.
Jeff and Cathy were in the process of dissolving their marriage. Jeff had installed a video camera above the ceiling of Cathy's bedroom, a camera concealed in an alarm clock, and a motion sensing "optical eye" in the headboard of the bed-all without Cathy's knowledge. She discovered them when she saw him remove a cassette from the recorder. Although there was nothing improper on the tape, Cathy felt violated and feared Jeff had placed, or would place, other cameras.
Jeff's attorney argued that he should prevail because there is no expectation of privacy within a marital relationship, that the videotape captured nothing of a private or sexual nature, and that he hadn't shared the videos with anyone. He also argued that the statute of limitations had expired on the matter.
The court looked at two standards in making their decision. First, was there an intentional intrusion? Since it was undisputed that Jeff had "covertly installed the recorder, recorded Cathy's bedroom activities, and attempted to retrieve a cassette from the recorder", that standard was met.
Secondly, was the act highly offensive to a reasonable person? The Court ruled that the wrongfulness of the conduct was based not on the content of the tapes or the use of them, but by the fact that Cathy's activities were "recorded without her knowledge and consent at a time and place and under circumstances in which she had a reasonable expectation of privacy."
Finally, the claim was found to have been filed within the statute of limitations and the decision of the court of appeals was affirmed, thus awarding the financial settlement to Cathy.