Tort plaintiff alleges BigLaw firm conspired to spy on her with GPS devices, hidden camera
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A former tort plaintiff has filed a $13 billion lawsuit that accuses Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz of conspiring with an insurer and private investigators to spy on her through illegally placed electronic devices.
The July 7 suit by Luisa Cruz Mezquital of Forsyth County, Georgia, seeks punitive damages of at least $12.2 billion from American Family Insurance and at least $1 billion from the law firm, Law360 reports.
Other defendants include two former Baker Donelson lawyers and the private investigation firm. The suit was filed in state court in DeKalb County, Georgia.
Cruz Mezquital alleges that private investigators trespassed to strap a hidden camera to a tree on her property and to install secret tracking devices on her vehicles, including a vehicle primarily driven by one of her minor children. Her property is not visible from the public road or any other public property, the suit says.
The tracking devices helped investigators follow Cruz Mezquital and her minor children, so they could record video and audio of their activities, the suit says.
The alleged aim was to get information for a car crash lawsuit filed by Cruz Mezquital in which Baker Donelson was representing the driver said to be at fault. The driver was insured by American Family Insurance.
Cruz Mezquital obtained a $30 million jury verdict in the car crash case, which was overturned on appeal. Before retrial, she learned of the secretly captured images that were used to harass her into accepting a low settlement, she alleges.
The suit says the insurance company wanted the private investigators to do whatever they had to get surveillance of Cruz Mezquital, and Baker Donelson passed along the directive. The law firm also received regular updates on the surveillance, the suit alleges.
Cruz Mezquital became aware of the illegal surveillance in November 2019, when Baker Donelson produced some of the photos that were taken, the suit says.
The suit alleges trespass, invasion of privacy, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Baker Donelson told Law360 that it was reviewing the complaint and did not have any immediate comment. The law firm did not immediately reply to the ABA Journal’s emailed request for comment.
American Family Insurance told Law360 in an email that Cruz Mezquital’s request for damages “is outlandish.”
American Family Insurance filed a federal suit in the Northern District of Georgia on June 25 seeking a declaratory judgment that it has no liability. The suit says a release signed as part of the settlement of the car crash suit bars any further claims, including Cruz Mezquital’s privacy lawsuit.
American Family Insurance’s suit also says the private investigation firm was an independent contractor that had a retainer agreement barring anyone from interfering with its surveillance.
The suit says Cruz Mezquital’s lawyers sought $50 million from the insurer before the suit was filed, and they have harassed American Family Insurance’s lawyers by threatening sanctions, impugning them at a continuing legal education program, and filing frivolous ethics complaints with the state bar that were quickly rejected.