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Privacy Across the Pond

We’re fresh off a conference on how privacy laws in Europe affect life and business in the United States.

So we tip our hat to the law firm that spotted this case about just that. The background is that one business had sued another in England and won. Then it had sued again here to collect on the judgment. To do that, it wanted to depose a witness on the other side, and the two sides argued about it. The plaintiff wanted to videotape the deposition, but the defendant balked.

Why?

The defendant argued, among other things, that the plaintiff couldn’t videotape the man’s deposition because of his privacy rights as a citizen of the European Union. Those laws say you must get someone’s consent before you tape them, generally. And the witness had refused to consent to the videotaping.

Not so fast, replied the American trial court. Parties to litigation in the United States must follow the legal rules of the courts here. And they consent to those rules by default when they come under the jurisdiction of the courts in resolving their disputes.

There’s no question you can videotape a deposition in the United States. Nowadays, if it’s an important witness, you’re often mistaken if you don’t. You may be able to refuse a videotaped deposition if you can prove the other side is just trying to annoy, harass, embarrass, or intimidate you. But that’s a reach. Here, the defendant couldn’t prove that or explain how or why its witness would suffer any more than in any other deposition.

So the court ordered the deposition to proceed. To ease any privacy concerns, however (and to move the case along), it also ordered everyone not to share the video publicly or use it in any other case or investigation.

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