Women in Peeping Tom Bathroom Case Don’t Need to Reveal Identity

It’s creepy to find out that a bathroom you used had a camera in it. And, if you did find out that there were recordings, you’d want people held responsible for this invasion. Well, that’s how a number of women felt after finding out that a bathroom they had visited contained a spy cam. Although their claims were initially dismissed, a New Jersey appeals court revived their claims when it ruled that the women aren’t required to identify themselves in the footage to prove their case.

The Invasion of Privacy

In late 2009, Teodoro Martinez, a former janitor at an office building in Somerset, New Jersey, was charged with invasion of privacy after it came to light that there was a surveillance device — which made visual and audio recordings — in the ceiling of a women’s bathroom. When police searched Martinez’s home, they found 8 hours of recordings that had been gathered over the past year, as well as more surveillance devices. Martinez was released on bail and fled the country.

In 2011, over 60 women filed a lawsuit against CRS Janitorial Services (Martinez’s employer), I&G Garden State (the owner of the building), and Planned Cos (the security company). The superior court judge ruled against 35 of these women at summary judgment, finding that a look at the video would be necessary in order to prove that they were filmed. Three of the women were able to obtain reinstatement of their claims, 30 women appealed the decision, and the rest of the women agreed to a settlement in 2016.

The Appeals Court’s Reasoning

The appeals court disagreed with the lower court, and instead found that it wasn’t necessary for the women to view the surveillance video in order to prove that Martinez had spied on them. Judge Clarkson Fisher, who wrote for the three-person panel, stated that making the women to “brandish the smoking gun of an intrusion — an actual image of the event” would give too much protection to the perpetrator and not enough to the victim. The opinion also stated that “[a]n injury logically results from the mere learning of an intrusion notwithstanding the lack of actual recordings.”

The judge also said that if there was a requirement where a victim would have to show proof of a recording to assert this type of claim, it “would excuse the conduct of those tortfeasors who delete, secrete, or destroy once-captured images before being caught.” Similarly, it could also potentially excuse offenders who violate a victim’s privacy without recording anything.

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