Another Illinois Appeals Court
Gives WC Claimant Green Light
to Sue Employerís Private Eye
Court Recognizes ďIntrusion
Upon SeclusionĒ Lawsuit
James Burns filed a workers compensation claim after he felt pain in his back while stacking wood for his employer, Masterbrand Cabinets, Inc. Masterbrand had doubts about the legitimacy of his claim and, Masterbrandís workers comp service, Gallagher Basset Services, hired Metro Private Investigations to conduct surveillance.
In November 2002 a Metro operative, Kennedy, came to Burnsís mobile home and asked to come in under the pretense that he was looking for a missing teenage girl, a picture of whom the operative was holding in his hand. Once inside Burnsís home, Burns alleged, Kennedy asked him questions about the girl. Meanwhile, Kennedy had a hidden camera in his fanny pack to record Burnsís movement and conversation. Burns claimed that Kennedy testified at an Industrial Commission arbitration hearing that he had used the strategem of the missing girl to get into Burnsís home.
Burns sued in state court, alleging the tort of intrusion upon seclusion. The trial court threw it out in March 2006, but recently the Fourth District Appellate Court reversed. James Burns v. Masterbrand Cabinets, Inc., et al, No. 4-06-0296 (January 9, 2007). This court now joins other Illinois appeals courts that have recognized this tort. Its elements: an unauthorized intrusion or prying into Burnsís seclusion, the intrusion was objectionable to a reasonable person, the matter upon which the seclusion occurs is private, and the intrusion causes anguish or suffering.
Suppose Kennedy had approached Burns outside the mobile home? No seclusion there, most probably, and this would be true even if Burns were in his back yard, if its space were open to and in full view of the public.