Monday, September 25, 2023
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No Privacy Invasion for Noisy Neighbor Recording

(CN) - A Wisconsin couple did not invade their neighbors' privacy by placing a $50 recorder from Radio Shack on the windowsill in order to bust them for being too noisy, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruled.

Andrea Burns and James Barr complained to police that their neighbors, Karen and Barry Poston, were harassing them and making too much noise. The police responded that they would listen to audio recordings of the offending racket.

Burns and Barr placed a recorded on their windowsill and taped 18 hours' worth of audio over five months. Police issued a ticket to Karen Poston for disorderly conduct based on her yelling at Burns and Barr on one of the audio CDs.

The Postons moved away and then sued Burns and Barr for invasion of privacy. At trial, Barr testified that Karen called them "fruitcakes" and deliberately made noise to irritate Barr's brain tumor.

The trial court ruled for the Postons and awarded them $41,080 in attorney's fees and legal costs. The appeals court reversed that decision, saying the trial court should have granted Burns and Barr's motion for a directed verdict.

"The recording of sounds emanating from the Postons' home using a common recording device that was placed inside the Burns-Barrs' own window was not, as a matter of law, an intrusion 'of a nature highly offensive to a reasonable person,'" Judge Joan Kessler wrote.

"Here, there was no allegation that the Burns-Barrs trespassed on the Postons' property in any way or 'bugged' their home."

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