US Appeals Court Allows Google Street View Trespass Lawsuit To Continue

A couple called “Boring” (yes, that’s their surname) sued Google in early 2008 for taking pictures of its suburban Pennsylvania home. The claim was their house was on a clearly marked private road (“Private Road, No Trespassing”) and Google’s Street View mobile trespassed by entering and taking the images of their home. There was also an “invasion of privacy” claim, among several others including “punitive damages.”

The US District Court dismissed the entire case. The US Court of Appeal for the Third District affirmed the lower court’s ruling on all claims and causes of action except the trespass claim:

We will affirm the District Court’s grant of Google’s motion to dismiss the Borings’ claims for invasion of privacy, unjust enrichment, injunctive relief, and punitive damages.  We reverse, however, with respect to the trespass claim, and remand with instructions that the District Court permit that claim to go forward.

Here’s what the court said about the trespass claim and why it’s likely to be successful against Google:

Trespass is a strict liability tort, “both exceptionally simple and exceptionally rigorous . . . “Here, the Borings have alleged that Google entered upon their property without permission.  If proven, that is a trespass, pure and simple.

This will turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory (albeit perhaps a “moral” vindication) however because the damages that the couple will be able to collect from Google will be “nominal.” The appeals court said this about potential damages:

Of course, it may well be that, when it comes to proving damages from the alleged trespass, the Borings are left to collect one dollar and whatever sense of vindication that may bring, but that is for another day.

Perhaps the couple can turn their story somehow into a reality TV show . . .

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Google: Critics | Google: Legal | Google: Maps & Local | Legal: Privacy

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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