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Klumb v. Goan, 2-09-Cv-115 (E.D. Tenn.; July 19, 2012)

Klumb v. Goan, 2-09-Cv-115 (E.D. Tenn.; July 19, 2012)

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Lawyer/ex-spouse on the hook for intercepting and interfering with former husband's email.
Lawyer/ex-spouse on the hook for intercepting and interfering with former husband's email.

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Published by: Venkat Balasubramani on Jul 23, 2012
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07/23/2012

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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURTEASTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEEAT GREENEVILLEJAMES ROY KLUMBv.CRYSTAL GOAN))))))No. 2:09-cv-115Magistrate Judge CarterMEMORANDUMI. IntroductionPlaintiff Roy Klumb brought this action alleging defendant Crystal Goan, formerlyhis wife, violated the federal Wiretap Act, 18 U.S.C.
'
2510
et seq.
, and the TennesseeWiretap Act, Tenn. Code Ann.
'
39-13-601
et seq.,
by installing spyware on hiscomputers without his consent to intercept his incoming email. A bench trial was heldand, having heard all the evidence, the Court concludes that defendant Crystal Goan didviolate the two wiretap statutes, that the plaintiff is entitled to the statutory damages of $10,000, and that defendant’s violation of the wiretap acts was part of a larger scheme togain advantage of the plaintiff during their divorce thereby warranting punitive damagesin the amount of $10,000. The plaintiff is also entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees andcosts. An appropriate judgment shall be entered.II. FactsAs written, the federal and Tennessee wiretap acts can encompass those situationswhere spouses resort to computer espionage as weapons of domestic warfare when their
Case 2:09-cv-00115 Document 119 Filed 07/19/12 Page 1 of 46 PageID #: 1703
 
2marriage sours. It is not clear whether Congress and the Tennessee legislature envisionedtheir respective statutes being used in such a manner, but case law indicates such actionsare not uncommon. This case, however, is not a garden variety case of one spouse puttingspyware on the other spouse’s computer to electronically eavesdrop. Plaintiff allegesdefendant engaged in an elaborate, deceptive scheme which involved wiretapping hiscomputer to intercept emails, altering those emails to make it appear he was having anaffair, and altering legal documents in order to provide that if plaintiff did have an affair,defendant would receive more money in a divorce. Because of the elaborate nature of theallegations and because the plaintiff seeks punitive damages, the Court has been requiredto focus a wide lens on the parties’ conduct and consider behavior beyond simplywiretapping. The result is the regrettable and unavoidable airing of dirty laundry.
 A. Background 
 
1. The Parties’ Relationship
Roy Klumb met Crystal Goan in the summer of 2003, between Crystal’s first andsecond years of law school at the University of Memphis, when she was hired for officework at the Greeneville, Tennessee office of Klumb Lumber Company (KLC). KLC is athird generation family business based in Mississippi, founded by Roy’s grandfather, andpresently headed by Roy’s father. Roy Klumb was overseeing the operation of the KLCGreeneville office, spending about half his time in Greeneville, Tennessee and half histime in Mississippi. Roy, who owns stock in KLC and has a significant interest in a
Case 2:09-cv-00115 Document 119 Filed 07/19/12 Page 2 of 46 PageID #: 1704
 
3business partnership with his two siblings, is a wealthy man. Roy has a son and adaughter from a previous marriage who lived with their mother in Mississippi.Roy and Crystal began dating in the summer of 2004 when Crystal, who is fromGreeneville, returned home again from law school. Roy and Crystal continued to datewhen she returned to the University of Memphis for her final year of law school. Therelationship appears to have been fraught with concerns of fidelity from the verybeginning. Roy was overly possessive, frequently calling Crystal to ask where she wasand what she was doing. Crystal, who knew Roy’s first marriage had ended, at least inpart, due to infidelity, was fearful that his previous dating relationships had not ended.After defendant graduated from law school in May 2005, she returned to Greeneville andbegan working at a law firm. The parties continued dating. Roy was generous to Crystalwith KLC resources. He allowed her to use the computers and fax machine in the KLCoffice and a company gas card, and company cars.Unfortunately, plaintiff’s and defendant’s relationship both before and after theirmarriage was severely strained. Roy often drank excessively. In one incident inMemphis, prior to Crystal’s and Roy’s marriage, he drank too much and was thrown outof a restaurant for throwing peanuts at the waitress. That same evening in their hotelroom, Crystal ended up with a black eye. On their honeymoon, he drank too much andbecame verbally abusive. In another incident after their marriage, Roy became soinebriated he passed out in their home and lost control of his bodily functions. Crystal had
Case 2:09-cv-00115 Document 119 Filed 07/19/12 Page 3 of 46 PageID #: 1705

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