Amati v. City of Woodstock

Saatvika Reddy SathiCase Summary

Maintainability of a class action suit for the taping of phone lines under the guise of "ordinary course of business"

Amati v. City of Woodstock
176 F.3d 952 : 15 IER Cases 1
In the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Case Number 98-2680, 98-2681
Before Chief Judge Posner, Circuit Judge Cudahy, and Circuit Judge Rovner
Decided on May 04, 1999

Relevancy of the Case: Maintainability of a class action suit for the taping of phone lines under the guise of “ordinary course of business”

Statutes and Provisions Involved

  • The Omnibus Crime Control and State Streets Act, 18 U.S.C § 2510-2520

Relevant Facts of the Case

  • The plaintiffs have appealed against a trial court judgment in the defendants’ favour regarding taping a particular phone line.
  • Initially, the authorities did not record any calls on this telephone line. However, an incident reached the dissatisfaction of a city councilwoman. This brought the need to tape this line.
  • However, the plaintiffs were unaware of this line’s taping and made personal calls. This was discovered when one of the defendants heard a recorded call containing derogatory comments by a plaintiff.
  • Before the suit, the defendant offered $2000 to the plaintiffs on the condition that they all agreed not to sue. Some agreed, while others did not. Hence, the court considered all the plaintiffs as a class.

Prominent Arguments by the Counsels

  • The plaintiffs’ counsel argued that the tape recording was not in the ordinary course of law enforcement without a notice. The ordinary course defence does not extend to the surreptitious recording of phone lines.
  • The defendants’ counsel submitted that the recordings took place under the ordinary course of law enforcement. The condition to offer $2000 was valid to the extent of the condition made. Since all the plaintiffs did not accept it, the court can try them together.

Opinion of the Bench

  • Recording was in the ordinary course of law enforcement, and as such, recording is rarely an invasion of privacy. Further, the ordinary course defence extends an exception to surreptitious calls.
  • The purpose of the recording was not to intimidate the parties.
  • For the class action suit argument, the plaintiffs appear to be seeking recourse against the defendant’s revocation of the offer.

Final Decision

  • The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s judgment.