Girl settles case for €50,000 after private eye took her photo
A private detective was sent by a life insurance company to a hotel in Galway to snoop on the activities of a couple and their six-year-old daughter, a court has heard.
Patrick E Keane SC, counsel for John and Elaine Fenton and their daughter Emma, of Templeroan Meadows, Knocklyon, Dublin, said the investigator working for the Irish Life Assurance Company had taken photos and a video.
Irish Life passed them on to its medical adviser to see whether banker Elaine Fenton might be scamming them through her income protection policy, which had kicked in after she had become ill.
Mr Keane told Judge Terence O'Sullivan at the Circuit Civil Court that €60,000 claims by Mr and Ms Fenton had been settled confidentially with Irish Life, with agreed costs arrangements, but the court had to approve or reject a €50,000 settlement offer from Irish Life to Emma, now 16.
Outlining Emma's claim, Mr Keane said it was unusual, taken under the laws of privacy and data protection.
Mr Keane said Emma's mother, an employee of AIB, had taken out an income protection policy. Irish Life Assurance had organised a second defendant, Reliance Investigation Services Limited, to carry out private investigations into Ms Fenton's movements.
"While doing that, they took photographs of Mr and Ms Fenton and of six-year-old Emma after following them into a hotel," Mr Keane said.
He told Judge O'Sullivan the photos had been taken with regard to informing Irish Life whether Ms Fenton was capable of resuming work.
None of them knew they were being photographed and there was no parental consent for photographs of the child.
Mr Keane said a settlement offer of €15,000 had been made to Emma at an earlier stage but this had not been accepted.
Irish Life was now offering Emma a settlement of €50,000 and costs. Emma, after finding out about the activities of the private detective, had developed psychological trauma.
He said the law in relation to privacy was "a tricky area" and it could also be extremely difficult to recover damages under the Data Protection Act.
Judge O'Sullivan said €50,000 seemed an excellent offer for Emma and he was very happy to approve it.
Mr Keane said the case against Reliance Investigation Services Limited, of Unit 2 White Haven, Calverstown, Co Kildare, which was now in liquidation, could be struck out.
The court learned Ms Fenton had made a claim against her AIB group income protection policy in October 2008 after becoming ill.
Irish Life had ceased paying her from November 22, 2010, a decision she had appealed.
It had afterwards paid the private detective agency to shadow her movements.
Sarah Moorhead SC, who appeared for Irish Life, said the assurance company was making the €50,000 settlement offer to Emma and was consenting to her parents' claims being struck out.