SW Legal studies in Business

Privacy Interests Must Be Balanced in Search of Laptop for Evidence

A party involved in a traffic accident, who claimed the other driver was using a laptop at the time of the accident, has the right to request tests of the laptop to check for usage, but the privacy interests of the laptop owner must be secured in the use of the laptop in the discovery process.

Topic Court Procedure
Key Words

Evidence; Balancing Test; Privacy Interests

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Cantrell and Cameron were in a traffic accident. Cantrell claimed that Cameron caused the accident as he was using his laptop computer, which was open on the passenger seat, at the time of the accident. Cameron denied that he was using the laptop. Cantrell asked the court to require Cameron to produce the laptop so it can be inspected to see if it was in use at the time of the accident. Cameron requested the court put restrictions on the scope of the inspection, but the trial court ordered Cameron to produce the laptop for inspection. Cameron appealed that order.


Vacated and remanded. When the right to privacy is invoked to prevent discovery of personal materials, the trial court must balance individual right to keep that information private with the general policy in favor of broad disclosure. In pursuit of this balance, courts usually conduct a three-part analysis: 1) whether the individual has legitimate expectation of nondisclosure; 2) whether disclosure is nonetheless required to serve compelling state interests; and 3) where compelling state interest necessitates disclosure of otherwise protected information, how disclosures may occur in a manner which is least intrusive with respect to the right to confidentiality. Cameron has privacy interests to the content of the laptop. The trial court must use these factors in determining the scope of discovery regarding the laptop.


Cantrell v. Cameron, 195 P.3d 659 (Sup. Ct., Colo., 2008)

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