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Sanders v. Am. Broad. Cos. - 20 Cal. 4th 907, 85 Cal. Rptr. 2d 909, 978 P.2d 67 (1999)


The cause of action for intrusion tort, has two elements: (1) intrusion into a private place, conversation or matter, (2) in a manner highly offensive to a reasonable person. The first element, we stated, is not met when the plaintiff has merely been observed, or even photographed or recorded, in a public place. Rather, "the plaintiff must show the defendant penetrated some zone of physical or sensory privacy surrounding, or obtained unwanted access to data about, the plaintiff. The tort is proven only if the plaintiff had an objectively reasonable expectation of seclusion or solitude in the place, conversation or data source."


Plaintiff Mark Sanders, a telepsychic, sued defendants American Broadcasting Companies and its reporter (ABC) for the tort of invasion of privacy by intrusion when the reporter covertly videotaped his conversations with a hidden video camera. The jury found for plaintiff, but the intermediate court reversed finding that plaintiff could have had no reasonable expectation of privacy in his workplace conversations because such conversations could be overheard by others in the shared office space. Plaintiff appealed.


Does the plaintiff have a reasonable expectation of privacy that protects him from intrusion by defendant?




The court held that plaintiff had a limited right of privacy against being covertly videotaped by a journalist in his workplace, even though his interaction with that journalist may have been witnessed, and his conversations overheard, by coworkers. that in an office or other workplace to which the general public did not have unfettered access, employees enjoyed a limited, but legitimate, expectation that their conversations and other interactions would not be secretly videotaped by undercover television reporters, even though those conversations may not have been completely private.

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