Compliance Management, Government Regulations, Privacy

Federal appeals court rules no expectation of privacy for preventable ‘butt dials’

A federal appeals court ruled, on Tuesday, there is no expectation of privacy in the event of a "butt dial," an inadvertent call made when a caller sits on a phone, when a caller hadn't taken reasonable steps to prevent it.

Kentucky executive, James Huff, and his wife, Bertha Huff, sued an executive assistant, Carol Spaw, for violating a wiretap law after the assistant eavesdropped for 91 minutes on a call made when when James Huff accidentally initiated a call from a phone in his breast pocket. Spaw subsequently took notes and recorded a portion of the call after she overheard what she thought was unlawful activity during a business meeting that Huff was attending.

The District Court of Kentucky court had issued a summary judgment in favor of Spaw, but the Huffs appealed. The appellate court overturned a portion of the lawsuit because Bertha Huff, who was also heard during the call, had an expectation of privacy since she was not responsible for the butt dial. Her portion of the case was sent back for review.

The ruling regarding James Huff was upheld and the court noted he "is no different from the person who exposes in-home activities by leaving drapes open," according to court documents

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