Cal.-LA Cty: REP of apartment tenants barred discovery against them as witnesses

Tenants of an apartment complex had a reasonable expectation of privacy from being brought into a discovery dispute. They had a right not to have their privacy invaded. Castillo v. LA Props. Heffesse LLC, 2018 Cal. Super. LEXIS 119 (Super. Ct., Los Angeles County Apr. 12, 2018)*:

The Court looks at whether there is a legally protected privacy interest at issue based on well-established social norms, whether the claimant must possess a reasonable expectation of privacy under the circumstances, and if the invasion of privacy complained of is serious in nature, scope and potential impact to constitute an egregious breach of social norms. (Pioneer Electronics (USA), Inc. v. Superior Court (2007) 40 Cal.4th 360, 370.) If the claimant has met the test for an invasion of a privacy interest, the interest must then be measured against other competing or countervailing interests in a balancing test. (Id. at 371.) Conduct alleged to be an invasion of privacy is to be evaluated based on the extent to which it furthers legitimate and important competing interests. (Ibid.) Protective measures, safeguards, and other alternatives may minimize the privacy intrusion. (Ibid.)

Courts have long held that individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their home. (See People v. Williams (2017) 15 Cal.App.5th 111, 120.) Tenants have a reasonable expectation of privacy for their landlords to protect their personal information about their residence as it is most probable that tenants gave their address and telephone numbers to their landlord with the expectation that it would not be divulged externally except as required to governmental agencies. (See Belaire-Vest landscape, Inc. v. Superior Court (2007) 149 Cal.App.4th 544, 561.) A landlord who divulged that information would be in egregious breach of social norms as it could potentially invite unwanted solicitations. As such the Court must balance the countervailing interests between Plaintiffs’ need for additional witnesses and third-party tenants’ interests in their personal information about their residence.

The discovery system in California “is founded on the understanding that parties use discovery to obtain names and contact information for possible witnesses as the starting point for further investigations. … The right of privacy in the California Constitution (art. I, § 1), ‘protects the individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy against a serious invasion.'” (Puerto v. Superior Court (2008) 158 Cal. App. 4th 1242, 1250.)

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