The opinion of the court was delivered by STERN, J.A.D.
Plaintiff commenced this action against two investigators and the corporation which employed them.
Plaintiff was in an automobile accident on January 23, 1983 as a result of which she claimed to have suffered physical, emotional and psychological injuries. The liability carrier for the other vehicle involved in the accident retained defendant Paralegal Technical Services, Inc. to investigate plaintiff's injury claims and Paralegal assigned the investigation to the individual defendants, their employees.
Plaintiff complains in particular about two separate incidents which occurred during defendants' surveillance. The first occurred on the morning of June 6, 1984. Plaintiff received a telephone call from a neighbor who said that she had noticed two suspicious-looking vehicles going up and down the road in front of plaintiff's home. Later, when plaintiff left her home with her mother to keep a doctor's appointment, she noticed two cars parked in a wooded area near the road and saw two men standing alongside the road, watching her as she left. As plaintiff drove to her appointment, she noticed that both cars were following her. Eventually, plaintiff pulled into the parking lot of a store about five miles from her home and noticed that the two cars had followed her into the parking lot. The driver of one car parked in the back of the store and then walked around the front of plaintiff's car, looking "straight into [her] face" while "within arms reach" of her. He "kept peering"
The second incident occurred on September 11, 1985. Plaintiff left a family birthday party in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and drove onto Route 380, when she noticed that one of the same vehicles involved in the June 6, 1984 incident was again following her. The vehicle proceeded to follow plaintiff closely for over forty miles until she pulled into a rest area. After plaintiff stopped, she noticed that the other vehicle had "pulled around" and parked facing her.
The motion judge granted summary judgment in favor of defendants on the issue of negligent infliction of emotional distress because he found that there was no breach of duty, apparently on the ground that any harm to plaintiff was unforeseeable. He also granted summary judgment in favor of defendants on the issue of intentional infliction of emotional distress, finding that defendants' conduct did not rise to the required level of outrageousness. Finally, the judge granted summary judgment in favor of defendants on the issue of invasion of privacy, because he found that, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the cause of action was not established.
Our Supreme Court recently considered the proofs necessary to sustain a claim for negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress in the absence of physical injury. In Buckley v. Trenton Savings Fund Society, 111 N.J. 355 (1988) the Court first considered "negligent infliction of emotional distress" and the development of case law thereunder, indicating that recovery seemed to be permitted, even in the absence of physical injury to the plaintiff, under circumstances where there was a "sufficient guarantee" of the "genuineness" of the claim and the emotional distress was sufficiently "severe," such as involving actual observation of severe injury or death to a loved one. 111 N.J. at 365. See also Giardina v. Bennett, 111 N.J. 412,
With respect to both negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, therefore, the Buckley Court concluded that
We conclude that the Law Division judge did not err in determining that there was insufficient evidence as a matter of law to present the emotional distress claims to a jury.
There was insufficient proof of severity of emotional distress, whether negligently or intentionally inflicted, to support a valid cause of action. Cf. Strachan, supra, 109 N.J. at 534. See also Giardina, supra, 111 N.J. at 419-420. Whether an insurance investigation following a claim may be deemed "one of the regrettable aggravations of living in today's society", Buckley,
We are also satisfied that the facts, viewed in a manner most favorable to plaintiff, do not give rise to a cause of action for invasion of privacy.
See also Restatement, Second, Torts (1977), § 652A; Bisbee v. John C. Conover Agency, 186 N.J.Super. 335, 339 (App.Div. 1982).
This case concerns a claim for "unreasonable intrusion upon seclusion of another." See Restatement, § 652A. According to the Restatement,
According to the comments to this section, a defendant is subject to liability
It may well be that "freedom from extensive shadowing and observation has come to be protected in most ... jurisdictions",
Bisbee affirmed a grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant, denying plaintiff's claim that his seclusion was unreasonably intruded upon, because reasonable men could not find any highly offensive intrusion and because all the matters at issue were otherwise known and public. The photograph which was published in that case had been taken from the public thoroughfare and thus represented a view available to any bystander. Ibid. See also N.O.C., Inc. v. Schaefer, 197 N.J.Super. 249, 255 (Law Div. 1984). Similarly, in Forster v. Manchester, 410 Pa. 192, 189 A.2d 147 (1963), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that detectives employed by an insurance company to make an investigation did not invade the privacy of a claimant since their surveillance "took place in the open or public thoroughfares where [the claimant]'s activities could be observed by passers-by." 189 A.2d at 150. The Forster court concluded that the conduct of the investigation was not "unreasonable," and therefore not actionable, adding that "by making a claim for personal injuries appellant must expect reasonable inquiry and investigation to be made of her claim and to this extent her interest in privacy is circumscribed." Ibid.
Similarly, here plaintiff, in her deposition and answers to interrogatories, asserts that defendants drove past her home, and were seen to do so, on several occasions on one day; that they parked their cars about half a mile from her home and
An individual who seeks to recover damages for alleged injuries must expect that her claim will be investigated. Although the investigation must be reasonably conducted, and may not involve an intrusion into the privacy of the claimant which could be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person, we conclude that here, even giving plaintiff the benefit of all legitimate inferences, the facts submitted in opposition to defendants' motion for summary judgment reveal no objectively unreasonable or highly offensive conduct on the part of the defendants. Accordingly, the judgment is affirmed.