Smart homes are houses that are designed to connect otherwise mundane features, like door locks, to the internet. Many technology and social observers believe these homes could be a sign of the future. But already, cases are beginning to emerge which indicates how liability could arise over them. The companies involved in creating smart homes should be aware of how they may be liable. If you’re a business in the smart home space, or a related industry, you could one-day face litigation. It’s already happening to some companies. But a dedicated business litigation defense attorney can help.
What is a smart home?
A smart home is set up to connect appliances and other devices to the internet. In other words, it adds internet functionality to otherwise non-internet parts of the home. This isn’t the stuff of science fiction; it’s technology being installed in homes today. Some of the home features that could be controlled by the internet include:
- Locking the doors
- Various appliances within the home
- Setting and changing the home’s temperature
- Lighting, inside and outside the home
- Cameras and security around the house
With smart home functionality, a homeowner can control these and other features remotely via the internet. This adds a layer of convenience that is popular with many homeowners. Indeed, these homes are growing in popularity. But that growth hasn’t come without a number of legal drawbacks.
Lessons from one lawsuit involving smart home technology
There has already been at least one lawsuit filed over smart home technology. Here, we will examine a case in particular. This lawsuit indicates the potential liabilities that companies involved with smart homes may have to deal with. Let’s start with the basics of Doty v. ADT.
This was a case out of Florida against ADT, a well-known home security company. A woman had various forms of smart home technology installed in her house. It included cameras inside and outside her house and locks that could be controlled through the internet. However, the technician who installed this security system gave himself remote access.
According to the complaint, the ADT employee used his remote access to enter the home over 70 times. He allegedly viewed and downloaded footage from the security cameras inside and outside the home. The suit claims the employee committed similar acts against hundreds of other ADT customers.
This resulted in a class-action lawsuit against ADT. And from this, a few lessons can be gained. One is the trouble that can be caused by remote access. Technicians who install smart home systems have a great deal of trust placed in them. But they can easily abuse this trust, as was seen in this case. Companies will have to determine how they can avoid such abuse so they don’t face liability. It’s a question of technology that implicates liability.
The court, in this case, did not dismiss a breach of contract claim made against ADT. In so doing, we see a second lesson. The refusal to dismiss suggests that companies have an implied duty to protect consumers from invasions of their privacy. The customer’s contract contained express waivers of implied covenants. But the court noted that the contract was with a security company. As such, it implied the company would secure the home. An unsecured home security contract, in other words, is really no contract at all.
Finally, the court believed the intrusion of privacy was sufficient for damages. While the woman was not physically hurt, her privacy was clearly violated. Even without physical injury, the privacy breach caused recoverable mental anguish.
Our Firm Is Prepared For The Future Of Smart Homes Business Litigation
As smart homes become more mainstream, you can expect more lawsuits like these. Your business may want to get in on the rising wave of smart home technology. But be sure you protect yourself against potential liability. Rosenbaum & Taylor is ready for the future of business litigation, whatever it may bring. And we can help your company with the legal challenges that face it today. Give us a call to schedule your confidential consultation.