By John S. Caragozian*
350 South Grand Avenue, Suite 3500
Los Angeles, California 90071
tel.: (213) 617-8050
fax: (213) 617-8653
[The response to this article by the California Association of Licensed Investigators, July 2006]
Lawyers often engage private investigators for sensitive assignments, such as conducting surveillance, obtaining admissions, and finding assets. Many lawyers do not know how investigators perform their work; other lawyers do not want to know. However, ignorance may not be bliss for California lawyers and investigators. In fact, it can be dangerous. An investigation that involves deception--even if the investigator has avoided perpetrating an outright lie--may jeopardize an investigator's license. Further, if the investigation invades someone's privacy or is otherwise tortious, both the investigator and the person hiring the investigator may face civil liability. Finally, criminal penalties exist for unlicensed investigators and persons who knowingly hire them.
California's Private Investigator Act (“PIA”)(1) prohibits private investigators from committing "any act constituting dishonesty or fraud."(2)The court of appeal in Wayne v. Bureau of Private Investigators and Adjusters(3) broadly applied this prohibition. In Wayne, an investigator retained by the defendants' insurance companies visited accident victims at home and misled them about who had retained him. The investigator never lied but did not identify his principals. The court of appeal upheld suspension of the investigator's license:
[T]he [investigator] in this case did not act entirely in good faith with the persons he interviewed....[H]e knew the interviewees wanted...to know whom he represented, he knew that he did not tell the interviewees the whole truth about whom in fact he represented, and further he knew from what he told the interviewees that they were mistakenly of the belief that in some capacity or way he was connected or associated with those whose interests were with the interviewees. There was a want of full probity or fairness in the transactions. The [investigator] was acting...to the end that he would gain a benefit to himself and those companies...he represented to the disadvantage of the interviewees or [their] insurance carriers....It was not a simple or casual omission to tell the exact and whole truth on a single occasion, but...was a studied course deliberately to mislead the unwary and by telling part truths thereby to deceive the interviewees into believing that [the investigator] in some respect represented their agents or principals.
There was a disposition to deceive, betray, and mislead the interviewees. In other words, there was a lack of complete integrity.(4)
Wayne does not define the PIA's prohibition narrowly or technically. Rather, "dishonesty may very well be something less than criminality," and "fraud embraces multifarious means whereby one person gains advantage over another.... " Thus, "the conduct complained of constituted dishonesty or fraud...."(5)
Wayne's interpretation of the PIA's "dishonesty or fraud" language has been repeatedly cited by California courts.(6) While investigators may argue that "in pursuing their business [they] must necessarily resort to tricks and ruses" and that investigators "will get nowhere by the direct approach," such arguments have not been accepted.(7) Likewise, the argument that the "dishonesty or fraud" prohibition applies only to investigators' conduct toward their clients and does not apply to their "dealings with opponent's clients" has been rejected.(8)
The California Supreme Court approved and extended Wayne in Redner v. Workmen's Compensation Appeals Board.(9) A workers' compensation insurance carrier retained an investigator who hired someone to pose as a friend of an injured worker. The purported friend plied the worker with alcohol and then induced the worker to go horseback riding, which the investigator captured on film. The carrier proceeded to offer the film as evidence. The supreme court held that "the [workers' compensation] referee should have refused to rely upon [the film] because the carrier obtained it by fraudulent inducement...." Moreover, according to the court:
[T]he carrier should not profit from its own deceitful conduct. The investigators feigned friendship and concealed their employer's identity.... Nothing in the record so much as suggests that in the absence of the fraudulent inducement [the worker] would have taken the ride. Indeed, the referee found that the carrier fraudulently obtained the film by means of violation of [the worker's] rights....(10)
Further, the Redner court held that victims of investigators may seek damages:
[P]rivate investigators may well make an intrusion in to the individual's right of privacy which would be objectionable or offensive to the reasonable man.... Courts have permitted such an individual to maintain an action for damages against the intruders.(11)
In Noble v. Sears, Roebuck and Company,(12) the court of appeal extended Redner by holding that lawyers retaining an investigator may be liable for at least some of the investigator's torts. In Noble, an investigator was retained by Sears's lawyers who had been defending Sears in an underlying personal injury suit. According to the pleadings, the investigator had "gained admittance to a hospital room where plaintiff was confined" and, "by deception," obtained a witness's address. The plaintiff sued Sears, its lawyers, and the investigator, but the trial court sustained a demurrer to the complaint. Ruling on the plaintiff's appeal of the demurrer, the Noble court held that, under the pleaded facts, "an unreasonably intrusive investigation may violate a plaintiff's right to privacy."(13) Further, Sears and the lawyers may have vicarious liability:
[I]t appears that in California the hirer of a detective agency for either a single investigation or for the protection of property, may be liable for the intentional torts of employees of the private detective agency committed in the course of employment.(14)
Also, under the pleaded facts, Sears and Sears's lawyers may have primary liability for their own "negligent supervision" or "negligent entrustment" of the investigator.(15)
In sum, California case law indicates that:
(1) The PIA prohibits investigators from misrepresenting themselves or their principals--whether the misrepresentation occurs affirmatively or by silence and whether or not an investigator actually lies. Violations of this prohibition my lead to suspension of or other action against the private investigator's license.
(2) Evidence obtained as a result of misrepresentation might be excluded in civil proceedings.
(3) Victims of torts related to misrepresentations may seek damages against investigators.
(4) Victims of intentional torts may seek damages against attorneys or others hiring the investigators.
(5) Victims of negligently supervised or entrusted investigators may seek damages from attorneys or others hiring the investigators.
Indeed, this case law might possibly be read as precluding all undercover investigations--that is, those investigations in which the investigators fail to disclose their true status, pose as someone they are not, and thereby seek to obtain admissions or other evidence. If so, then investigators who conduct undercover investigations--with the possible exception of investigations into certain insurance claims(16)--might be engaging in "dishonesty or fraud" under the PIA.
The breadth of this possibility is significant. The use of investigators in today's business climate may be exemplified by two scenarios. In the first, a business owner experiencing a loss of inventory and suspecting theft by workers retains a private investigator to pose as a worker in order to observe and learn whether employees are indeed involved in theft. The investigator usually avoids telling lies but engages in casual conversations that serve to encourage his or her acceptance by the other workers and elicit approaches by would-be thieves. (For example, the investigator might say, "I could use some extra money," or "How secure is this warehouse?")
In the second, a business suspects that a competitor is misrepresenting itself and hires an investigator to pose as a prospect for the competing business. The investigator, without disclosing his or her true role, asks questions as a means of gathering information about how the competitor is describing its status and activities. For example, an accredited vocational school may want to discover whether an unaccredited vocational school is misleading prospective students by claiming to be accredited. The investigator might say, "I am thinking about your school, but I want to know if it is accredited." By asking this question, the investigator is avoiding a direct lie but is being misleading. The investigator clearly wants to know about the school's accreditation, but he or she wants to be perceived as a real potential student.
In both scenarios, investigators do not disclose that they are investigators and do not reveal who has hired them. Moreover, investigators deliberately mislead others into believing that they are something they are not. Indeed, they are not fellow workers or business prospects. Investigators use the misconceptions about their identity to obtain evidence that most likely would not have been forthcoming if they had disclosed that they were investigators.
If these scenarios portray prohibited conduct, then many investigators and their principals will have difficulty in ferreting out wrongdoing and wrongdoers. On the other hand, if the scenarios portray permitted conduct, then courts may have difficulty in articulating objective standards that allow private investigators to pose as colleagues or prospective customers but not as allies (as in Wayne) or friends (as in Redner). Of course, Wayne also included in-home visits, Redner involved intoxication, and Noble featured a hospital room visit, but the case law did not expressly indicate that, absent these particular facts, the subject investigations would have been permissible.
In addition to the general prohibition of dishonesty or fraud, the PIA provides for denial, suspension, and revocation of an investigator's license for specific types of misconduct. These include: impersonating a law enforcement officer; using a badge; using a uniform, insignia, or identification card "to give an impression" of connection with the government; committing assault, battery, or kidnaping, or using "force or violence without proper justification"; committing any violation of the California Privacy Act,(17) which outlaws secret wiretapping, eavesdropping, and recording; "using illegal means" in debt collection; or accepting employment "adverse to a client or former client" relating to a matter about which the investigator obtained "confidential information."(18)
Protections and Risks
While the PIA does not expressly confer privileges or immunities on private investigators, the Civil Code accords every person a qualified privilege against some tort liability if his or her conduct consisted of a communication "to a person interested therein..." who "requested...the information"(19) and an absolute privilege if the conduct was in a "judicial...or...other proceeding authorized by law."(20) However, no reported case has held that investigators have any greater claim to these privileges than other persons.
Accordingly, investigators may be liable for torts such as fraud, trespass, invasion of privacy, battery, and false imprisonment. Likewise, investigators may be liable for violating statutes such as the Uniform Trade Secrets Act.(21) Other persons may be vicariously liable for any of this wrongdoing by retaining an investigator, especially if the investigator had advertised his or her capabilities for working undercover. The advertising may impute notice to the hirers of the investigator of potential Wayne-type problems.
Also, no per se private investigator-client privilege or private investigator work product doctrine has been held to exist. The PIA does provide that, in the absence of a client's consent, an investigator "shall not divulge..., except as he or she may be required by law..., any information acquired..." (though "criminal offense" information "may" be divulged to law enforcement officers).(22) Thus, investigators have a duty of confidentiality, but the case law expressly leaves open the question of whether this duty creates any corresponding privilege against discovery.(23) Nevertheless, investigators must allow relevant discovery of the identity of their clients.(24)
Without the certainty of a privilege, private investigators face the possibility that their work product and communications with clients might be discoverable. Investigators are not entirely vulnerable in this area, however. There are two grounds for objection to discovery that investigators may be able to utilize. First, an investigator (or the investigator's client) may assert a constitutional privacy objection.(25)
Second, while investigators might not have their own protections, investigators retained by lawyers might avail themselves of the lawyers' protections. Investigators retained by lawyers in litigation may assert the attorney work product doctrine to prevent disclosure of the lawyer's or the investigator's "impressions, conclusions, opinions, or...theories."(26) Similarly, communications between a lawyer's client and an investigator who is the lawyer's agent may be protected by the lawyer-client privilege.(27)
Lawyers retaining investigators face their own set of prohibitions and risks. For example, a lawyer may not compensate an investigator by "directly or indirectly" sharing fees from the lawyer's client.(28) Also, lawyers must be careful not to violate Rule 2-100 of the California Rules of Professional Conduct, which prohibits a lawyer from "directly or indirectly" communicating "about the subject of the representation" with a party represented by another lawyer. A violation of Rule 2-100 can occur if a lawyer engages an investigator to communicate with a party that the lawyer knows to be represented by another lawyer.
In Jorgensen v. Taco Bell Corporation,(29) the court of appeal found no violation of Rule 2-100 when a prospective plaintiff's lawyer retained an investigator to interview a corporation's employees seven months before the plaintiff sued the corporation. The court expressly rejected the corporation's argument that the lawyer "should have known" that the corporation "would be represented" or had "house counsel."(30) However, the Jorgensen court implied that a closer question would be presented if the investigator had conducted the interviews "on the eve of the filing of the lawsuit" and that a lawyer would violate Rule 2-100 if the lawyer hired an investigator to communicate with a represented adversary or represented witness after filing suit.(31)
Lawyers who violate Rule 2-100 face sanctions by the trial court, including disqualification from any role in the lawsuit at issue.(32) These sanctions are in addition to any disciplinary actions that the State Bar of California may take.(33) However, a Rule 2-100 violation does not give rise to a civil action for damages.(34)
Given these proscriptions, investigators and their principals may wonder if any private investigation is lawful. In California, at least five investigatory activities generally are permissible:
(1) Overt investigations, in which investigators identify their roles and principals and do not otherwise mislead or deceive anyone.
(2) Public records searches.(35)
(3) Physical observations, measurements, and the like.
(4) Protection of a person, if it is "incidental" to an investigation and if the investigator complies with the PIA's firearms and insurance requirements.(36)
(5) Surveillance, even if covert, provided that investigators do not trespass or invade privacy.
The privacy proviso bears careful study, because California has common law,(37) constitutional,(38) and statutory protections against the invasion of privacy. The statutory protections are numerous and scattered, ranging from an antipaparazzi law (banning certain photography of "personal or familial activity")(39) and an antistalking law(40) to a ban on the use of a "telescope, binoculars, camera,...or camcorder" to view the interior of a "bedroom, bathroom,...or the interior of any other area in which the occupant has a reasonable expectation of privacy."(41) To complicate matters further, federal privacy statutes also exist.(42)
Licensing Issues and Exempt Persons
Under the PIA, a private investigator is any person:
(a) [W]ho, for any consideration...whatsoever engages in business or accepts employment to furnish, or agrees to make, or makes, any investigation for the purpose of obtaining, information with reference to:....
(b) The identity, habits, conduct, business, occupation, honesty,... knowledge,... whereabouts,... associations,... acts, reputation, or character of any person.
(c) The location...of lost or stolen property.
(d) The cause or responsibility for fires, libels, losses, accidents, or damage or injury....
(e) Securing evidence to be used before any court....(43)
Private investigators must be licensed by the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (“BSIS”), which is part of the Department of Consumer Affairs.(44) To obtain a license, an investigator must submit an application, pay a fee, possess certain experience requirements, and pass an examination--and once the license is granted, it must be renewed periodically.(45)
Unlicensed persons (not including those considered exempt under the PIA) who represent themselves as licensed or act as private investigators are committing a misdemeanor and may be jailed for up to one year and fined $5,000.(46) In addition, anyone--presumably including a lawyer--who "knowingly" engages an unlicensed investigator or who conspires to have an unlicensed person operate as an investigator also commits a misdemeanor with the same penalties.(47) Public prosecutors may seek civil remedies against unlicensed investigators, their coconspirators, and anyone who knowingly engages such investigators. The civil remedies include an injunction (for which prosecutors need not "show lack of adequate remedy at law or irreparable injury"), a civil fine of up to $10,000, and reimbursement of BSIS investigation expenses.(48)
The PIA does not contain a private right of action for licensing violations. However, private parties might have at least three indirect remedies. First, a licensing violation would be an "unlawful...business act or practice" under the Unfair Competition Law, which generally affords private parties equitable relief, including an injunction and, if appropriate, restitution.(49) Second, an aggrieved litigant might move to exclude evidence gathered by an unlicensed investigator.(50) Third, a person who contracts with an unlicensed investigator might seek to avoid paying the investigator's fees on the ground that the contract is illegal.(51)
May a licensed investigator employ or contract with unlicensed persons to perform investigative tasks? The answer appears to be a qualified yes. Under the PIA, a licensee may be an individual, partnership, corporation, or other business.(52) If the licensee is a partnership, corporation, or other business, it must designate a licensed "manager," under whose "direction, control, charge, or management the business...is operated."(53) The individual or manager licensee is "legally responsible for the good conduct...of his or her employees or agents...,"(54) and only the licensee, manager, or other person authorized by them may submit a "written report...to a client."(55) Also, employees (though, apparently, not agents) of licensed investigators may provide the "incidental" personal protection.(56)
The PIA exempts several classes of persons from its purview, including its licensing requirement. Among those for whom the PIA does not apply are:
- Employees "employed exclusively and regularly" by an employer "in connection with the affairs of such employer." While this exemption requires the unlicensed, in-house investigator to be a W-2 employee, no court has interpreted the "affairs of such employer" language. Is the unlicensed employee limited, say, to investigations on the employer's premises or relating to the employer's suppliers, customers, or other employees? Or may the unlicensed employee also visit the employer's competitors and investigate their businesses? May the unlicensed employee investigate prospective employees or potential competitors? No reported case law has addressed these questions.
- Peace officers who are "off duty" and privately employed (unless they carry firearms).
- Lawyers. No case law indicates whether lawyers' employees also are exempt.
- Insurance carriers, agents, brokers, and adjusters.
- Banks, savings associations, secured creditors seeking repossession, and credit-reporting agencies.
- Persons obtaining information solely from public records.
- Process servers.(57)
Beyond the statutory exemptions, some case law holds that at least some experts, consultants, and others performing investigative work also need not be licensed. However, these decisions are neither recent nor fully developed.
In Kennard v. Rosenberg,(58) two licensed chemical engineers and a retired city fire inspector sued Nate Rosenberg to collect their professional fees. Rosenberg had been indicted for arson of his nightclub. His lawyer retained the fire inspector after the inspector had stated that he was not licensed and "acted only in the capacity of consultant or an expert." The lawyer also retained the engineers who conducted tests, examined photographs, prepared court exhibits, and--along with the inspector--attended the preliminary hearing and consulted with the lawyer. Rosenberg's defense for not paying the three was that the PIA required them to be licensed as private investigators. The trial court rejected this defense, and the court of appeal affirmed. The appellate court, announcing that "none of the [three experts/consultants] were engaged in the private detective business," reasoned that the engineers were licensed engineers and thus "were authorized to make investigations in connection with that profession...." Moreover, the court continued:
[T]he private detective license law was not intended...to place a limitation on the right of professional engineers to make chemical tests...and to testify.... A physician, geologist, accountant, engineer, surveyor or a handwriting expert, undoubtedly, may lawfully testify in court in connection with his findings without first procuring a license as a private detective, and...a photographer may be employed to take photographs of damaged premises for use in the court without procuring such a license.(59)
Thus, experts--particularly in recognized, forensic disciplines--may be retained to investigate matters in litigation without being licensed as investigators.
In Mason v. Peaslee,(60) Russell Mason, an unlicensed sound engineer, sued his client Margaret Peaslee after she refused to pay his fees. For eighteen years, Mason had taped "meetings..., speeches,...and personal conversations" for corporations, attorneys, individuals, and law enforcement agencies--"in many instances" without the subjects' knowledge. Peaslee requested Mason to install recording devices in her husband's office to determine if the husband was "dishonest and secreting money" or "a sex pervert." Mason did so. The trial court granted a nonsuit on the ground that the contract was illegal, because Mason lacked an investigator's license. The court of appeal reversed, on two grounds. First, the PIA's requirement of a license for persons who "engage" in the investigation business connotes "frequency of action," and the trial court "could not draw the inference that [Mason's] work in recording conversations for others was done in such a manner as to constitute doing business as a private investigator...."(61) Second, the court noted that Mason did not personally "conduct any investigation...." Indeed, according to the court, "Mason...merely furnished to [Peaslee] the devices with which she could carry out her own investigation and...in operating the devices he acted not as an investigator but as one employed by [Peaslee] to render technical aid to her in operating the devices which she had rented from him."(62)
The Mason court seemed to hold that (1) an investigator need not be licensed to conduct a one-time investigation, and (2) merely furnishing and operating surveillance equipment is not an investigation. Mason's holdings, though, appear unsound. For example, if the word "engage" connotes "frequency," then, using the same logic, an unlicensed person could perform dental surgery on one occasion, because dentists' licenses are required only for persons who "engage in the practice of dentistry...."(63) Unsurprisingly, no court has ever cited Mason's interpretation of the PIA, and it would be risky for unlicensed investigators or anyone contemplating retention of an unlicensed investigator to rely on it.
Persons exempt from the PIA (such as in-house investigators) enjoy not only freedom from licensing, but, ironically, perhaps greater latitude than licensed investigators in undercover investigations. To be sure, exempt persons still must avoid torts and statutory violations, but Wayne holds licensed investigators to higher standards. For example, Wayne suggests that the PIA's "dishonesty or fraud" language could--at least in part--encompass silence, does not expressly require that the victims' reliance be reasonable, and does not mention damages. By contrast, actionable fraud excludes misrepresentations by silence except in limited circumstances,(64) requires that the reliance be reasonable,(65) and requires actual damages.(66) Thus, in Wayne, as well as in the typical types of scenarios in which businesses use undercover investigations, exempt persons might have been able to conduct the investigations, even if licensed investigators could not. In sum, exempt persons might be able to investigate in ways that avoid tort or statutory liability, but licensed investigators must also reckon with Wayne.(67)
In the celebrated 1939 novel and 1946 movie The Big Sleep, Los Angeles private detective Philip Marlowe was retained by General Guy Sternwood to investigate Arthur Geiger, after Geiger had requested payment of some suspect promissory notes. Marlowe's investigation included two visits to Geiger's book shop on Hollywood Boulevard. On the first visit, Marlowe pretended to be interested in buying books; on the second, he pretended to have a book to sell. In neither visit did Marlowe disclose that he was an investigator or that General Sternwood had retained him. Under Wayne and its progeny, Marlowe might well have violated the PIA and risked BSIS discipline and civil liability. The fictional Philip Marlowe could ignore such risks. Nonfictional investigators and lawyers cannot.
1 Bus. & Prof. Code §§7512-73.
2 Bus. & Prof. Code §7538(b). See also Bus. & Prof. Code §7561.4.
3 Wayne v. Bureau of Private Investigators & Adjusters, 201 Cal. App. 2d 427 (1962). 4 Id. at 437.
5 Id. See also Taylor v. Bureau of Private Investigators & Adjusters, 128 Cal. App. 2d 219, 227-28 (1954) (upholding the bureau's suspension of a license after an investigator truthfully said he was an investigator but lied about who had retained him).
6 See, e.g., Chodur v. Edmonds, 174 Cal. App. 3d 565, 570 (1985).
7 See Taylor, 128 Cal. App. 2d at 227. See also Wayne, 201 Cal. App. 2d at 437-38 (An investigator's admission that, without concealing information from interviewees, "undoubtedly he would have had to return to his office with no statements" is evidence of fraud.).
8 Taylor, 128 Cal. App. 2d at 227-28.
9 Redner v. Workmen's Comp. Appeals Bd., 5 Cal. 3d 83 (1971).
10 Id. at 93-94.
11 Id. at 94 n.13 (citations omitted).
12 Noble v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 33 Cal. App. 3d 654 (1973).
13 Id. at 660.
14 Id. at 663 (footnote omitted). Noble expressly leaves open the question of whether the "hirer" could be liable for an investigator's "negligent torts." Id. at 663 n.8.
15 Id. at 663-64.
16 See the Insurance Information and Privacy Protection Act, Ins. Code §§791-791.27. The act allows "pretext interviews" (meaning interviewers pretend "to be someone [they are] not," misrepresent their principals' identities, misrepresent the interview's "true purpose," or refuse to identify themselves) to investigate insurance claims "where there is a reasonable basis for suspecting criminal activity, fraud,...or material non-disclosure...." Ins. Code §§791.02(u), 791.03. No reported decisions have considered this language, much less opined whether or how it applies to private investigators.
17 Penal Code §§630-637.9.
18 Bus. & Prof. Code §§7539(d), (e), 7561.1(e), (h), (m), 7561.4(b), (d). See also Penal Code §§631, 632.
19 Civ. Code §47(3).
20 Civ. Code §47(2). How closely related the conduct must be to the proceedings has been the subject of substantial case law. See, e.g., Knoell v. Petrovich, 76 Cal. App. 4th 164 (1999); Rosenthal v. Irell & Manella, 135 Cal. App. 3d 121 (1982).
21 See Civ. Code §§3426-3426.11.
22 Bus. & Prof. Code §7539(a).
23 Flynn v. Superior Court, 57 Cal. App. 4th 990, 993-94 (1997).
24 Id. at 995-96.
25 Cf. Valley Bank of Nev. v. Superior Court, 15 Cal. 3d 652, 658 (1975) (A bank may assert its customers' constitutional privacy rights to prevent discovery of customer records, even absent an Evidence Code privilege.). On the other hand, parties seeking discovery of investigators' records should note that the "personal records" listed in Code of Civil Procedure §1985.3 (which codified Valley Bank of Nevada) do not include investigators' records.
26 See Code Civ. Proc. §2018(c); Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(3). See also Rodriguez v. McDonnell Douglas Corp., 87 Cal. App. 3d 626, 647-48 (1978) (An investigator retained by a defendant's lawyer took notes regarding what a witness stated. The notes would have been discoverable under California law, because they were "nonderivative or noninterpretive." However, the investigator's own "comments about [the witness's] statement" are "protected absolutely from disclosure," and the comments were "so intertwined" with the notes that "all portions...should be held protected...." (emphasis in original)); and O'Connor v. Boeing N. Am., Inc., 216 F.R.D. 640, 652-53 (C.D. Cal. 2003) (A private investigator who interviewed witnesses "on plaintiff's counsel's behalf" was protected by the federal attorney work product doctrine from having to disclose what the witnesses said.).
27 Cf. City & County of S.F. v. Superior Court, 37 Cal. 2d 227, 236 (1951).
28 Cal. Rules of Prof'l Conduct, R. 1-320(A).
29 Jorgensen v. Taco Bell Corp., 50 Cal. App. 4th 1398 (1996).
30 Id. at 1401-02, 1403.
31 Id. at 1402-03.
32 See, e.g., Lewis v. Telephone Employees Credit Union, 87 F. 3d 1537, 1558 (9th Cir. 1996); Mills Land & Water Co. v. Golden West Ref. Co., 186 Cal. App. 3d 116, 133 (1986).
33 See Bus. & Prof. Code §6077.
34 Noble v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 33 Cal. App. 3d 654, 658 (1973).
35 In obtaining public records, investigators must comport with the Information Practices Act, Civ. Code §§1798-1798.78. The act includes a private right of action against individuals disclosing nonpublic "personal information" from federal or state records. See Civ. Code §1798.53.
36 See Bus. & Prof. Code §7521.5.
37 See, e.g., Briscoe v. Reader's Digest Ass'n, 4 Cal. 3d 429, 533 (1971) (The California Supreme Court expressed concern about, inter alia, "electronic devices with their capacity to destroy an individual's anonymity, intrude upon his most intimate activities, and expose his most personal characteristics....").
38 Cal. Const. art. I, §1. See also Schuman v. Group W Prods., 18 Cal. 4th 200, 231 (1998) (The invasion of constitutional privacy has two elements: "(1) intrusion into a private place, conversation, or matter, (2) in a manner highly offensive to a reasonable person.").
39 Civ. Code §1708.8.
40 Civ. Code §1708.7.
41 Penal Code §647(k).
42 See, e.g., the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 18 U.S.C. §§2510-22, and the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. §§2701-11.
43 Bus. & Prof. Code §7521.
44 Bus. & Prof. Code §§7520, 7528.
45 Bus. & Prof. Code §§7525, 7525.1, 7526, 7527, 7541, 7541.1.
46 Bus. & Prof. Code §7523(b).
48 Bus. & Prof. Code §7523.5(a), (c).
49 Bus. & Prof. Code §§17200, 17203.
50 Cf. Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co. v. Superior Court, 200 Cal. App. 3d 272, 287 (1988).
51 Cf. Loring & Evans v. Blick, 33 Cal. 2d 603, 607 (1949). But see, e.g., Marshall v. Von Zumwalt, 120 Cal. App. 2d 807, 810 (1953) (ruling in favor of an unlicensed contractor on the ground that "[c]ontracts made in violation of statutes, if not malum in se, are sometimes held valid....").
52 Bus. & Prof. Code §§7512.3, 7520, 7525.1(e).
53 Bus. & Prof. Code §§7512.7, 7525.1(e),(g), (h), 7526, 7527.
54 Bus. & Prof. Code §7531.
55 Bus. & Prof. Code §7539(c).
56 Bus. & Prof. Code §7521.5
57 See Bus. & Prof. Code §7522.
58 Kennard v. Rosenberg, 127 Cal. App. 2d 340 (1954).
59 Id. at 344-45.
60 Mason v. Peaslee, 173 Cal. App. 2d 587 (1959).
61 Id. at 591.
62 Id. at 592.
63 Bus. & Prof. Code §§1625, 1626 (emphasis added).
64 A defendant is liable for silence only when there is (a) a fiduciary relationship giving rise to a duty to disclose, (b) knowledge of material facts to which the plaintiff had no access, or (c) active concealment of material facts. See, e.g., Cooper v. Jevne, 56 Cal. App. 3d 860, 874 (1976); Border v. McClung, 93 Cal. App. 2d 692, 697 (1949); Marine Corp. v. Superior Court, 52 Cal. App. 3d 30, 37 (1975).
65 See, e.g., Wilhelm v. Pray, Price, Williams & Russell, 186 Cal. App. 3d 1324, 1332 (1986).
66 Civ. Code §1709. See also Agnew v. Parks, 172 Cal. App. 2d 756, 768 (1959).
67 Conversely, if the PIA confers a privilege against discovery, then presumably unlicensed persons would not enjoy that privilege. To date, neither the PIA nor case law interpreting the PIA provides licensed investigators with this privilege. See text, infra, and Flynn v. Superior Court, 57 Cal. App. 4th 990, 993-94 (1997).
* Mr. Caragozian is a member of the State Bar Of California and litigates business and privacy matters. He thanks Ms. Lily Nyland for her assistance in the preparation of this article. A slightly different version of this article appeared in the December, 2004, Los Angeles Lawyer.
Copyright © 2004. John S. Caragozian. The text of this document may not be altered without express authorization of the author. This document should be used as an information source and not as legal advice.