TRENTON, N.J. (CN) – Reviving claims over a bathroom spy cam, a New Jersey appeals court ruled Friday that women who used the facilities at issue need not identify themselves in the footage to prove their case.
A former janitor for the office building at 400 Atrium Drive in Somerset, N.J., Teodoro Martinez was charged in late 2009 with invasion of privacy after a surveillance device was found in the ceiling of a women’s restroom. The small device reportedly made audio and visual recordings, and police found additional surveillance devices in a search of Martinez’s residence, as well as eight hours of recordings that had been accumulated for the past year.
Martinez fled the country after being released on bail and is believed to be in his home country of Mexico.
In 2011, more than 60 women filed suit against Martinez’s employer, CRS Janitorial Services, as well as the office building’s owner, I&G Garden State, and the security company Planned Cos.
Judge John O’Dwyer with the Bergen County Superior Court ruled against 35 of the women at summary judgment, however, finding that the only way to prove that they were filmed would be to look at the video.
Three of the women obtained reinstatement of their claims, but only 30 women appealed as the remaining women struck a 2016 settlement with the three companies for $940,000.
The Appellate Division found Friday that the women did not have to view the surveillance video to prove they had been spied on by the janitor.
The motion judge imposed “what we think is the truly remarkable conclusion that only a plaintiff who is able to produce evidence that her image was actually captured by a hidden recording device may maintain this cause of action,” Judge Clarkson Fisher for a three-person panel.
Fisher noted that requiring the women to “brandish the smoking gun of an intrusion — an actual image of the event” would fail to provide full protection to the victim and give too much protection to the perpetrator.
“An injury logically results from the mere learning of an intrusion notwithstanding the lack of actual recordings,” the 14-page opinion states.
Fisher also said that requiring a victim to prove recording “would excuse the conduct of those tortfeasors who delete, secrete, or destroy once-captured images before being caught.”
Doing so might also excuse those who break into a victim’s seclusion but do not record, such as somebody who bores a hole into a wall or installs a one-way mirror, Fisher noted.
Further, the recordings took place over at least six months, so any of the women who asserted she used the restroom during that time should not have been dismissed, Fisher wrote.
William Buckley, an attorney for I&G Garden State with the firm Schenck, Price, Smith & King, said in a statement that his client is disappointed with the decision and is weighing whether to appeal.
CRS Facility Services was represented by Christopher Carey, of Graham Curtin. Carey has not returned an email seeking comment.
The attorney for the women, Franklin Solomon, could not immediately be reached for comment.