A judge said Wednesday she was leaning toward dismissing parts of a lawsuit that the CEO of KB Homes filed against comedian Kathy Griffin and her husband, which alleges that the couple illegally recorded the businessman and his wife on audio and video.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Holly Fujie said she wanted to study the issues further before making a final decision, but that she is more likely than not to stay with her tentative ruling. She also said that whatever her final decision is, she expects the losing side will appeal. She said she may rule as soon as Friday.
Mezger and his wife, Sandra, live next door to Griffin and her now-husband, Randy Ralph Bick Jr., who also is a defendant. The Mezger suit, filed in July 2018, alleges two causes of action for nuisance, violation of two sections of the state Penal Code, invasion of common law right of privacy, invasion of California constitutional right of privacy and false light invasion of privacy.
In her tentative ruling, the judge said she saw no triable issues in two of the privacy causes of action and in one of the Penal Code allegations.
“The court finds that Griffin has met her burden in showing that she did not eavesdrop or record any confidential communications of plaintiffs,” the judge wrote.
The judge also said the evidence shows the comedian did not go onto her neighbors’ property to make any recordings.
“The communications at issue were recorded from the vantage point of Griffin’s home, a place where plaintiffs do not dispute that Griffin or Bick had the legal right to be,” the judge wrote.
But attorney Craig Marcus, on behalf of the Mezgers, implored Fujie to rethink her tentative ruling.
“We profoundly disagree with the court’s analysis,” Marcus said. “I apologize for getting passionate, but this case has important implications for society as a whole.”
Marcus said the law does not require that there be a trespass or “physical intrusion” in order for an invasion of privacy to occur. He said the fact that a camera was on Griffin’s property, where she was lawfully permitted to be, is “of no moment.”
Marcus said that Griffin and Bick initially used their cell phones to record the Mezgers, but then escalated their surveillance with a security system to place their neighbors on camera 24 hours a day for the last three years. Griffin distributed some of the footage to the media and posted it on her Twitter account, Marcus said.
The comedian also played the recordings during some of her public performances, Marcus said.
“They’re making money off these recordings,” Marcus said. “This is despicable conduct, your honor.”
Dana Alden Fox, an attorney for Griffin and Bick, told the judge he did not want to respond point-by-point to Marcus’ lengthy argument unless Fujie had specific questions. However, he said that if Marcus’ reasoning prevails, it would broaden privacy laws beyond what any court in the U.S. has done.
On Jan. 2, Fujie granted a motion by the Mezgers to dismiss Griffin’s countersuit, which contained a single cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress and alleged a series of actions leading up to Mezger making an allegedly threatening rant in September 2017.
The judge ruled that Mezger’s behavior was not “extreme and outrageous.”
Griffin, 59, and Bick, 41, began dating in 2011 and were married in a New Year’s Eve ceremony officiated by Lily Tomlin.
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