Iowa Rules Against Husband Who Secretly Videotaped Wife in Bedroom

video cameraThere is an interesting tort case in Iowa where Jeffrey Tigges of Dubuque, was found by his wife to have secretly mounted cameras in their bedroom and filmed them in private. A court awarded Cathy Tigges (now divorced) $22,500 for invasion of privacy.

The arguments in this case are fascinating. Jeffrey contended that Cathy had no expectation of privacy from him in their home and that there was no invasion of privacy since the only person who saw the videos was her sister.

He had mounted cameras above a ceiling and in a bedroom alarm clock as well as a motion-sensing”optical eye” in a headboard over their bed. She found one of the cameras in 2006.

The court notes that this was not the typical Ozzie and Harriet relationship:

“Even before their marriage, Jeffrey and Cathy had recorded each other’s telephone conversations without the other’s knowledge and consent. Apparently undeterred by their history of discord, they were married on December 31, 1999. Jeffrey surreptitiously installed recording equipment and recorded Cathy’s activities during the marriage in the marital home.”

Justice Daryl Hecht was unmoved by spousal claims and the alleged lack of harm, saying that his “conduct is not excused by the fact that the surreptitious taping recorded no scurrilous or compromising behavior . . . The wrongfulness of the conduct springs not from the specific nature of the recorded activities, but instead from the fact that Cathy’s activities were recorded without her knowledge and consent at a time and place under circumstances in which she had a reasonable expectation of privacy.”

Two torts are relevant in such cases. Intrusion Upon Seclusion is rarely used against a spouse since they are generally treated as one person and consensually reveal themselves in their home. There is also Publication of Embarrassing Private Facts.

The court relies on seclusion after applying the Second Restatement standard:

The right to privacy can be invaded by: (a) unreasonable intrusion upon the seclusion of another . . .; or (b) appropriation of the other’s name or likeness . . .; or (c) unreasonable publicity given to the other’s private life . . .; or (d) publicity that unreasonably places the other in a false
light before the public . . . .

Restatement (Second) of Torts § 652A(2) (emphasis added).

Notably, one critical fact remains in dispute: whether they were living together:

“The district court found the videotaping occurred when “the parties were
separated and residing in separate residences.” The court of appeals concluded “the
incidents testified to by Cathy clearly occurred while the parties were still residing in
the same house together as husband and wife.” We find the record lacks sufficient
clarity to determine by a preponderance of the evidence whether Jeffrey was residing in
the marital home or in a separate residence when he installed the cameras and when
the recording was accomplished.”

This is not the first such case. In Miller v. Brooks, 472 S.E.2d 350 (N.C. Ct. App. 1996), a husband was allowed to sue his wife after he learned that she had hired private investigators to install a hidden camera in the bedroom of her estranged husband’s separate residence. North Carolina Court of Appeals noted the expectation of privacy “might, in some cases, be less for married persons than for single persons,” but that “such is not the case . . . where the spouses were estranged and living separately.” Id. at 355.

Likewise, in Clayton v. Richards, 47 S.W.3d 149 (Tex. App. 2001), a wife hired the defendant to install equipment in her bedroom with her husband. Mr. Clayton sued his wife and Richards, alleging invasion of his privacy. The Texas Court of Appeals noted:

“A spouse shares equal rights in the privacy of the bedroom, and the other spouse relinquishes some of his or her rights to seclusion, solitude, and privacy by entering into marriage, by sharing a bedroom with a spouse, and by entering into ownership of the home with a spouse. However,nothing in the . . . common law suggests that the right to privacy is limited to unmarried individuals.

When a person goes into the privacy of the bedroom, he or she has a right to the expectation of privacy in his or her seclusion. A video recording surreptitiously made in that place of privacy at a time when the individual believes that he or she is in a state of complete privacy could be highly
offensive to the ordinary reasonable person. The video recording of a person without consent in the privacy of his or her bedroom even when done by the other spouse could be found to violate his or her rights of privacy. As a spouse with equal rights to the use and access of
the bedroom, it would not be illegal or tortious as an invasion of privacy for a spouse to open the door of the bedroom and view a spouse in bed. It could be argued that a spouse did no more than that by setting up a video camera, but that the viewing was done by means of technology rather
than by being physically present. It is not generally the role of the courts to supervise privacy between spouses in a mutually shared bedroom. However, the videotaping of a person without consent or awareness when there is an expectation of privacy goes beyond the rights of a spouse because it may record private matters, which could later be exposed to the public eye. The fact that no later exposure occurs does not negate that potential and permit willful intrusion by such technological means into one’s personal life in one’s bedroom.”

Id. at 155–56 (citations omitted) (emphasis added).

Since my kids treat my morning shower as a live performance suitable for group viewing, I can’t imagine any privacy expectations that I have left at this point. However, this case hits at a fascinating point between common views of spousal and tort liability.

For the opinion, click here.

For the full story, click here.

23 thoughts on “Iowa Rules Against Husband Who Secretly Videotaped Wife in Bedroom

  1. He showed them to her sister? ICK!!!

    I think this is the correct ruling. Marriage started out as “the two shall become one and that one shall be the man”. The father gives away his ownership of the bride to the ownership of the husband (giving her hand in marriage). These views of marriage still lurk, sometimes in complete openess, in our legal system.

    The idea of marriage as two people who give up their individuality needs to go. Marriage gives people legal rights and responsibilities towards each other. It should not be taken to dimish the personhood of the two partners.

  2. “Even before their marriage, Jeffrey and Cathy had recorded each other’s telephone conversations without the other’s knowledge and consent.”

    These two are creepy and made for each other. Spy versus spy? I would have denied each a recovery against the other on the grounds each assumed the risk by marrying the other.

  3. ‘Since my kids treat my morning shower as a live performance suitable for group viewing, I can’t imagine any privacy expectations that I have left at this point. However, this case hits at a fascinating point between common views of spousal and tort liability.’

    What about those annual ‘NDA’s’ you have the children sign, JT?

  4. mespo,

    I agree that the taping before marriage is really creepy and certainly would be an excellent argument for never getting married or dating (either one of them!), but even really stupid people should have recourse in the courts. The people who invested in Madoff’s ponzi scheme give every indication of being both stupid and greedy but they still got ripped off. If we wait for pure plaintiffs we might as well close the courts!!! (Maybe Snow White v. The Wicked Queen???)

    Nevertheless, I have seen people be more and more ready to tape each other and get into the private lives of others and I find that disturbing. The privacy zone in our lives is almost non-existent, due to the govt., corporations and so called intimates!!! Yicks!

  5. Jill:

    The difference is that Madoff’s victims didn’t know his intentions before getting into bed with him. Our fine spouses here did. They’d have a tough row to how with me as judge.

  6. That’s not really true mespo,

    Warnings (very specific ones — it’s a ponzi scheme) about Madoff have been around for years. If they didn’t know it’s because they didn’t want to know. The evidence was also right in the claimed returns–these returns were not credible. Yet people looked the other way and invested anyway.

  7. I agree, mespo – to a point. These two do sound made for each other, but I would be mortified to learn I was married to a hi-tech closet
    ‘peeping tom’ and that my sister is a ‘voyeur’.

    However, the people who invested in Madoff’s schemes were far from stupid.

    It was the SEC who was stupid and willfully blind to repeated warnings for a decade. That’s how a 10B scam turned into a 50B scam.

    Both Henry and Casey recall Markopolos alerting SEC officials of his suspicions and giving them memos, starting with the Boston office around 2000, and later, according to Casey, contacting officials at the SEC’s New York offices.

    Henry said yesterday that when he first heard of Madoff’s arrest, he called Markopolos to compare notes.

    Markopolos, Henry said, remarked, “It’s about time!”

  8. Patty C:

    They have no capacity to execute those NDA’s and I will take that case pro bono.

    ever see Dane Cook’s stand up routine?

  9. These two are an interesting couple or ex-couple. The Ex-husband is a real scum bag. I was amazed at the claim that he didn’t show the video to anyone except his sister-in-law. How did they ever think that disclosing to any third party is not a disclosure? I have to go now and check out all the hiding spots in my bedroom!

  10. Just knowing that my soon-to-be-ex has a mind that works the same way that this creepy peeping tom, was enough to make me move out of my familial home (even though the judge awarded it to me) and into an investment property that he had never been to. Good Article!

  11. You idiots we did not tape each others phone conversations he lied in court he showed no proof he is scum of the earth He lied about everything he was a controll freek I found the tape when he was switching it out and I was not sure what was on it and I had my sister view it for me cause I tryed and it made me physically ill to see what he was doing he was into voyierism he is a sick man and i am glad its over…………..

  12. yes you are all idiots here read the transcript before you comment their was no proof of any of this their was no tape viewed no witnesses nothing just a materialistic peice of shit that wanted to use this senario to strip everything away from him, remember it was the husbon that filed for divorce not her she cheated on her first husbon for years with her second husbon and than cheated with another married man whom she has been living with for 3 years that had just recentally got divorced this past year, this lady cannot find a single man she goes after married ones and gets off on breaking up famalies, i also know for a fact these 2 were involved with a couple of swingers so this ex wife does have great morals i know very well of these 2 lets get the real story and talk

  13. amazing the judge didn’t call her psycho. for talking non sense about somebody watching her or mean things against husband. Because there are so many cases where wife becoems target or victim to anybody not only husband and they monitor her secretly to see what she is doing and steals her life, education, money and richness in her life. WIfe was believed and awarded anf if i were in her lace i would ask judge to pay me fifty million because see her life too destroyed, her privacy is ruined, accused of going her husband, her husband mistrust her and lead a pretentious life, I imagine if kids are invlove.
    may be she went to the police with video recording and they awarded her money . Why the other criminlas are not thought about. sometime there are cases where criminals who watch girls aand women for pleasure could be monitoring or victimising her. there are lot of possibilities may be husband have old girlfriend who two together helping each other in committing a crime. WELL JUSTICE IS SERVED AND THE WIFE IS BELIEVED , IF NOT SHE COULD HAVE FACING SO MANY PHYSICAL AND MENTAL TORTURE FROM THE PERSON WHO IS WATCHING HER.

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