On May 14, 2013, the governor of Florida signed a law that prohibits using unmanned aircrafts—more commonly known as drones—to take photos or record video of people on private property. The law does not make it a criminal action, but instead drone operators may be sued civilly under personal injury statutes.
The new law falls under the Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act, Title XLVII, Chapter 934. Initially, the law only prohibited law enforcement agencies from using drones in certain circumstances. However, with the popularity of the small, unmanned aircraft growing, legislators felt it was presumed that people have a reasonable expectation of privacy on their own property. The statute further states that a person has this right to privacy if “he or she is not observable by persons located at ground level in a place where they have a legal right to be, regardless of whether he or she is observable from the air with the use of a drone.”
Proving Actual Damages
One of the issues with the new law is that it may be difficult to prove actual damages. The law requires the person who files a civil lawsuit must be able to prove that they have been financially damaged. Many experts believe the awards to plaintiffs who can prove damages will be fairly small, between $500 and $2,500. However, the law also allows the court to award attorney’s fees if they side with the plaintiff, which could be significantly higher than the amount awarded to the plaintiff.
Over the past few years, the drone industry has grown to become an $82 billion industry. Large companies like Amazon and the U.S. Postal Service are considering delivery drones as a way to deliver packages more quickly. The American Red Cross and State Farm Insurance have obtained permission to use drones to survey property damage. There are no national laws regarding drones, although the Federal Aviation Administration has authority to regulate the small aircraft on a limited basis. Some drone manufacturers and distributors are concerned with the new law as they feel it may open them up to higher insurance costs and litigation.
Drones have an important place in the business world, especially for companies who must survey property, deliver packages or perform other tasks that may need aerial views. However, there are individuals who use drones for less desirable purposes.
Contact Laporte, Mulligan & Werner-Watkins for Legal Advice
If you feel your privacy has been compromised by a drone, contact Laporte, Mulligan & Werner-Watkins, P.A. today to discuss your case with a knowledgeable attorney. We offer stability in a time when that quality seems to be lacking. Arrange for your initial consultation by calling or completing the form online.