1/29/2020Oregon Allows Suit Over Secret GPS Snooping Device On Car
Oregon Court of Appeals allows motorist to sue Toyota after company secretly installs tracking device on his pickup truck.
An Oregon motorist can sue over the GPS tracking device that was installed on his automobile without his knowledge. Erik Loyal Reed was the Lake Oswego regional sales manager for the Toyota Motor Credit Corporation when he was given a company vehicle, a Toyota Tundra pickup, to drive. After he left the company he was allowed to keep the truck, but without his knowledge the company secretly installed a GPS device to record his every move. The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled last week that Reed was entitled to sue over this privacy violation.
Toyota officials became concerned about Reed when he showed up at work with a knife, so they decided to place him on leave. To deliver the news, the officials used his company-owned iPad to track down his location so he could be told. His employment agreement allowed him to keep the leased vehicle, but the company also told him that the truck had to be serviced at Capitol Toyota. When he brought it in, a security team installed the tracker to create alerts any time he went near the Toyota manager's home or the office location. He never did.
After a month, Reed noticed wires behind the gas and brake pedals, which led to his finding of the GPS unit. Reed sued Toyota over the invasion of his privacy. The company insisted it had done nothing wrong because the Tundra belonged to Toyota Financial Services (TFS) and Reed was just allowed to use it pursuant to his work deal. A local judge agreed that there was no privacy invasion, but the three-judge appellate panel disagreed, comparing the situation to any ordinary automotive lease.
"Through the lease, TFS transferred to plaintiff the right to use and to exclude others (including TFS except as agreed in the separation agreement) from the truck," Judge Josephine Jodie H. Mooney wrote for the court. "Given the right to exclude others and evidence that plaintiff did not consent to the installation of the GPS device, we conclude that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment for TFS."
Toyota also tried to argue that Mooney suffered no actual harm because Reed never drove by the office or manager's home, so the GPS alarm was never triggered.
"Just because the data recorded by the GPS device was not used does not mean that the secret installation of the device onto plaintiff's leased vehicle was not an invasion of his privacy," Judge Mooney wrote. "An issue of material fact remains for a jury to decide whether, under the circumstances of this case, the installation of the GPS device amounted to an intrusion into a private place."
The court noted that a warrant would have been needed had Toyota called police to set up a tracking device on Reed's pickup.
A copy of the ruling is available in a 200k PDF file at the source link below.