Class Action against Spying Landlord Settles in Ohio

By: Gerri L. Elder

So what is your privacy worth? If someone offered you $100 to wiretap your residence and videotape you at home in the shower, on the phone and in bed - would you be willing to accept that? What if the offer were $700?

In Sandusky County, Ohio, some tenants of a voyeuristic landlord discovered that he had been secretly videotaping them for a number of years. James Rogers owned a number of rental properties in Gibsonburg, Ohio and it has been determined that he concealed equipment throughout his rental properties in order to make video and audio recordings of his tenants.

Rogers made 237 known videotapes of tenants and 600 men and women appear on the tapes. In some of the recordings, the faces of some of the people are not caught on camera and only about 50 of the people appearing on the tapes have been identified. This type of activity can qualify as personal injury.

The thing is, as Rogers' home was being searched for evidence of his voyeurism and surveillance of his tenants, he committed suicide. Therefore, those who were violated could only sue his estate.

A class action lawsuit against Rodgers' estate has been in litigation for five years now. The end may be in sight; however, it seems to fall far short of any true compensation for Rogers' victims.

There is now a proposed settlement in the case. The proposed settlement would allow $100,000 for the victims who have been identified in the case, and settlements of $100 for any other victims that may come forward that can be identified in any of the 237 video recordings. As much as $65,000 of the settlement amount could go towards attorneys fees and legal expenses associated with the case. That means that under the proposed settlement, each of the identified victims would receive about $700.

The attorney for the plaintiffs in the case has said that the settlement basically exhausts Rogers' estate and that the settlement agreement, which was reached through mediation, represents the best case scenario for the victims. The judge in the case has already granted preliminary approval for the settlement.

The attorney representing the victims in the case also said that once the final settlement is reached and approved in the case, he will ask that the videotapes be destroyed.

However, before the final settlement happens, a hearing will take place. On January 7, 2008, the victims will be able to speak and voice their opinions on the settlement proposal. We can only imagine that they are disappointed about the tiny amount that each of them will receive under the proposed settlement, but if there is no money in Rogers' estate, this is all they will get.

At the time of his death, Rogers had not been charged with a crime. Following his death, a criminal investigation was conducted. Since Rogers' legs were partially amputated, there had been speculation that he may have had help placing the recording devices in the rental properties. Police say that they did not collect enough evidence in the case to charge anyone with criminal activity.

Rogers had apparently been spying on his tenants from 1986 up until his death in 2002.

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