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Villanova v. Investigations, Inc., A-0654-10T2 (N.J. Ct. App. July 7, 2011)

Villanova v. Investigations, Inc., A-0654-10T2 (N.J. Ct. App. July 7, 2011)

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NJ appeals court says spouse's use of GPS to track vehicle does not violate privacy.
NJ appeals court says spouse's use of GPS to track vehicle does not violate privacy.

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Published by: Venkat Balasubramani on Jul 08, 2011
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NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THEAPPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISIONSUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEYAPPELLATE DIVISIONDOCKET NO. A-0654-10T2KENNETH R. VILLANOVA,Plaintiff-Appellant,v.INNOVATIVE INVESTIGATIONS, INC.,and RICHARD P. LEONARD,Defendants-Respondents. ________________________________________________________________ Argued May 2, 2011 - DecidedBefore Judges Lisa, Sabatino and Alvarez.On appeal from the Superior Court of NewJersey, Law Division, Gloucester County,Docket No. L-1018-09.Charles J. Sprigman, Jr., argued the causefor appellant.Marc C. Pakrul argued the cause for therespondents (Tompkins, McGuire, Wachenfeld &Barry, LLP, attorneys; Mr. Pakrul andRichard F. Connors, Jr., of counsel and onthe brief; John P. Marzolla, on the brief).The opinion of the court was delivered byLISA, P.J.A.D.Plaintiff, Kenneth R. Villanova, appeals from an August 27,2010 Law Division order, which granted summary judgment in favorof defendants and thus resulted in dismissal of his complaint.
APPROVED FOR PUBLICATIONJuly 7, 2011APPELLATE DIVISION
July 7, 2011
 
A-0654-10T2
2The order also denied plaintiff's cross-motion for summaryjudgment. Plaintiff's claim was for intentional or negligentinvasion of his right of privacy. It stemmed from events thatoccurred in relation to his divorce proceedings. His wife hireddefendants, Innovative Investigations, Inc., and its principalRichard P. Leonard, to investigate plaintiff's suspectedinfidelities. In the course of doing so, Leonard suggested toMrs. Villanova that she place a global positioning system (GPS)device in one of the family vehicles to assist in trackingplaintiff's whereabouts. She did so. In granting summaryjudgment, the trial court found that, accepting the facts in thelight most favorable to plaintiff, he failed to make out a primafacie case of the tort of invasion of privacy.On appeal, plaintiff first argues that the tort of invasionof privacy exists in this State. Defendant does not disputethat contention, and we agree as well. Plaintiff then arguesthat (1) defendants' actions constituted a violation of hisright of privacy, (2) the trial court failed to set forthadequate findings of fact and conclusions of law in renderingits decision, and (3) he presented sufficient facts to withstandsummary judgment and allow the case to proceed to determinationby a jury.
 
A-0654-10T2
3We find plaintiff's arguments unpersuasive. We hold thatthe placement of a GPS device in plaintiff's vehicle without hisknowledge, but in the absence of evidence that he drove thevehicle into a private or secluded location that was out ofpublic view and in which he had a legitimate expectation ofprivacy, does not constitute the tort of invasion of privacy.Accordingly, we affirm.I.Plaintiff and Mrs. Villanova were married in 2000.Plaintiff filed a divorce action on May 13, 2008, and a divorcejudgment was ultimately entered on September 3, 2009. Plaintiffis a Gloucester County Sheriff's Officer, and at all relevanttimes worked in the warrant unit of the sheriff's department.Applying the Brill
1
standard, these are the pertinent facts.Suspecting her husband of infidelity, Mrs. Villanova retaineddefendants in 2007 to investigate the issue. In the course ofthat arrangement, Leonard suggested that Mrs. Villanova purchaseand install a GPS device on a family vehicle regularly driven byplaintiff in order to track his movements. She purchased thedevice through the internet and placed it in the glovecompartment of a GMC Yukon-Denali, which was jointly owned bythe parties. This vehicle was insured only for personal use,
1
Brill v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 142 N.J. 520 (1995).

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