A judge Monday dismissed parts of a lawsuit that the CEO of KB Homes filed against comedian Kathy Griffin and her husband, alleging that the couple illegally recorded the businessman and his wife on audio and video.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Holly Fujie came to the same conclusions in her Feb. 19 tentative ruling regarding the case brought by Jeffrey T. Mezger and his wife, Sandra, but said after hearing arguments that she was taking the case under submission to study the issues further before making a final decision.
In her 19-page decision, the judge was critical of both sides.
“The court finds that the briefing provided by the parties was deficient, in that both parties cited to cases primarily involving federal Fourth Amendment search and seizure case law, and not cases involving California state law involving factual scenarios similar to that of the parties to this action,” the judge wrote.
Fujie’s decision cited numerous clips with both video and audio recordings submitted by the plaintiffs’ attorneys, including some from Griffin’s Nest home security system. The judge found many to be either incomprehensible or inaudible, including one from May 2017.
“The audio on this recording consists of numerous people speaking loudly and most of the audio is not clearly audible as it has a lot of static,” the judge wrote. “From what is audible, the court can ascertain a few phrases.”
Fujie wrote that given the “sheer audible volume of the conversations and activities, and the lack of ability to discern most of what is being said or viewed in plaintiffs’ backyard … the court finds that there was not a substantial impact on plaintiffs’ privacy interests.”
The Mezgers live in the Bel Air Crest gated community 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 ruling, the judge said she saw no triable issues in two of the privacy causes of action or in the Penal Code violation allegation. The judge also said the evidence shows the comedian did not go onto her neighbors’ property to make any recordings.
“Plaintiffs concede they have no knowledge that any cameras or video cameras belonging to her ever crossed over the property line and crossed onto their property, and they do not even contend that she placed a video camera over the property boundary line,” the judge wrote.
In his argument during the February hearing, plaintiffs’ attorney Craig 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 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, he said.
“They’re making money off these recordings,” Marcus said. “This is despicable conduct, your honor.”
On Jan. 2, Fujie granted a motion by the Mezgers to dismiss Griffin’s countersuit, which contained a single cause of action — 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.”
Trial of the remaining causes of action in the lawsuit is scheduled for May 4.
Griffin, 59, and Bick, 41, began dating in 2011 and were married in a New Year’s Eve ceremony officiated by Lily Tomlin.
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: