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The Borings get another whack at Street View

Damages estimated at $1

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Mr. and Mrs. Boring will get a third chance to fight Google over the snapping photos of their secluded home from a Street View spymobile.

Last week, a federal appeals court partially revived the now-famous Pennsylvania couple's privacy lawsuit against Google. But the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals ruling said that Aaron and Christine Boring will have to prove the search firm's photos caused actual damages in order to collect more than one dollar.

Last spring, the Borings filed a lawsuit against Google, claiming invasion of privacy, trespass, negligence, and unjust enrichment. According to the suit, a Google Street View spycar rolled down the Borings' private driveway to take pan-and-zoomable photos of their residence and swimming pool. It argued that the couple should be awarded at least $25,000 in damages for each claim, plus punitive damages and attorney's fees.

But come February 2009, a US District Court judge summarily dismissed the case, rejecting the Boring's claims — and noting that the lawsuit itself did more damage to the couple's privacy than Google Street View ever managed.

Undaunted and claiming it was a case of the "little guy, once again being trampled upon by the big shoe of big business," the Borings then asked a federal judge to reconsider the ruling.

The appeals court, however, has let most of the dismissal stand. Only the trespassing claims remain.

It found that the District Court had improperly dismissed the Borings' claims of trespass on the basis that it was not the proximate cause of any damages sought in the complaint.

"Through claiming not to have done so, it appears that the District Court effectively made damages an element of the claim, and that is problematic," the ruling said.

"Here, the Borings have alleged that Google entered upon their property without permission. If proven, that is trespass, pure and simple," it continued.

But the judge noted that the Borings are unlikely to get more than $1 from Google unless they can prove the pictures caused actual harm or damages.

"Of course, it may well be that, when it comes to proving damages from the alleged trespass, the Borings are left to collect one dollar and whatever sense of vindication that may bring, but that is for another day," the ruling said.

Yet from the past rhetoric likening Google's Street View snaps to enslavement — a low damages payment may not be enough to assuage the Borings. ®

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