The Wyoming Supreme Court decided Tuesday to allow three Casper residents to sue a rent-to-own company in Natrona County courts alleging the company invaded their privacy.
A Natrona County Circuit Court judge initially threw out the case after concluding that Wyoming’s tort law does not recognize suits on the basis of invasion of privacy. After two appeals, the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled that intrusion torts should be recognized in Wyoming and the case can now return to circuit court to be tried on its merits.
“We’re pleased that the supreme court cleared this up,” said local attorney John Robinson, who argued the case with John LaBuda of Pinedale.
Aspen Way owns the local franchise of Aaron’s Sales and Leasing, which rented laptops to the plaintiffs. The three plaintiffs filed suit alleging that the company installed software on the laptops without their knowledge. The software could be used to remotely access the laptops’ cameras, capture the content of the laptops’ screens and log keystrokes entered on the laptops, plaintiffs allege.
Adam Warren, who argued for Aspen Way Enterprises in the case, declined to comment for this story.
After the dismissal in circuit court, lawyers for the plaintiffs appealed the case to Natrona County District Court, which in February concurred with the circuit court’s decision.
Lawyers for the plantiffs — Gretchen Howard, Audrey Kinion and Steve Winn — then appealed to the state supreme court, which reversed the two lower courts’ decision on Tuesday, citing Wyoming’s stance on common law.
The justices note that Wyoming was one of only two states that had not made a decision on invasion of privacy torts. Of the other 48 states, only “two states explicitly have refused to recognize intrusion” torts, the court wrote in its opinion.
The court also noted Wyomingites’ preference for personal privacy in making its decision.
Justice William U. Hill wrote in the court’s decision: “Given our state’s policy favoring privacy interests and the legislative enactments protecting those interests, we find the tort of intrusion upon seclusion to be well adapted to our circumstances and state of society.”
Hill is due to retire from the bench in February.
Another Casper couple is suing the company in federal court alleging similar intrusion. That case has been going on for more than six years. Robinson is representing a Casper couple in the federal case.