Don’t Call Us

How many lawyers out there have had clients complain they are receiving calls at all hours of the night, certain it’s their spouse/ex-spouse or an agent acting on their behalf? I’m sure that all of you out there reading this are nodding your heads in recognition of the phenomenon.

It’s definitely a form of harassment, but even if the police and courts are willing to slap the offender on the wrist, that’s generally not a satisfactory resolution for the person who’s been harassed.

A recent decision by Judge Alisa Miller of the Tel Aviv District Family Court may encourage people who get the urge to use the phone not to use it as a tool to irk the ire of their intimate enemy’ but rather,  to imitate Stevie Wonder’s inimitable words:

The decision should provide relief for harassees or even better, deter potential harassers.

A lawsuit was filed by a woman whose estranged husband called her during the night; sometimes she answered and heard only silence, sometimes the calls went to her voice mail. The suit against him was based on violation of privacy under the Law to Protect Privacy.

The spouse admitted to having made such calls only a few times, and the plaintiff did not prove that he had made the number of calls she described in her lawsuit. Nonetheless, based on the man’s admission that he had made some calls, the judge awarded her damages.

The man had said in his own defense that he made the calls out of a sense of distress as the couple had rocky litigation over the issues of their children. He claimed it was never his intention to harm the woman and further,  argued that the calls he did constitute a violation of her privacy.

The court disagreed, and concluded that the calls were in fact an infringement of her privacy and awarded the plaintiff compensation.

One of the definitions of the violation of privacy under the law is:“…following or tracking another in ways likely to harass him, or other forms of harassment.”

Thus, the judge rejected the claim that the calls were not an invasion of privacy, and based herself on two Supreme Court decisions, one of which discussed what should be inviolate nature of one’s home, the fact that individuals should feel safe and free in their homes and removed from those beyond who seek to harass them.

The second Supreme Court ruling was a fairly recent decision which deals specifically with the issue of emotional safety, one of my favorite topics. In a rough translation of that Supreme Court decision:

“… just as the right of the individual is to be protected physically, it is his right to be protected emotionally. His home is his castle – and the telephone is an extension of his home…as has been said, the legislator has sought within the parameters of the dignity of the individual – and we recall that the right to privacy is a constitutional right -to protect human beings from an incursion into his privacy.”

The recognition of the infringement of emotional territory and the attendant damage to the individual, makes this an important decision which should have implications for other forms of behaviour which until now have not been actionable.

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