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Your Cell Phone Is Watching You At Work

Your cell phone is watching when you go to work, when you go home, and everything in between.  The cell phone is a treasure trove of information.  Leave it sitting around the scene of a crime and the police are likely to make quick work of a conviction.  Get in an accident at work and your phone may tell the tale of your work day.

Cell Phone Location Helped Prove Employer Liability

The central issue in a car accident case was what an employee had done with his work day. On the work day in question, the victim was hit by an employee during work hours, but not by a work vehicle.  The employer claimed that at the time of the car accident the employee was not “on the job” and therefore the it – the employer – was not responsible.

If the employee was working at the time of the car accident, the employer would be liable for the damages.  If the employee was not working at the time of the car accident, the employer was not on the hook for the damages. To prove the employee was on the job at the time of the car accident, the plaintiff had a cell phone expert testify.  The expert presented opinion evidence based on which cell towers the cell phone talked to during the course of the work day.

According to the expert, the evidence tended to show the employee was going from one work location to another.  That evidence corresponded with the plaintiff’s theory that the employee was indeed on the job at the time of the car accident, and was picking up a package in one work location to deliver it to another work location.  Based in part on the cell phone evidence, the jury found in favor of the plaintiff and the employer was on the hook for the damages.

First Time Alabama Supreme Court Addressed Cell Phone Experts

The employer sought to avoid the damages in part by challenging the use of the cell phone expert on appeal.  According to the Alabama Supreme Court, this case is the first time they have been asked to determine whether someone who gets location information from cell towers and cell phone records can give expert testimony.  Not surprisingly perhaps, the Supreme Court did not take issue with the use of this particular type of expert.  Where appropriate, experts can testify in Alabama about someone’s location based on cell phone data.

What else does my cell phone know?

Cell phones are frequently used in civil and criminal cases.

  1. In 2018 the United States Supreme Court confronted the use of cell phone data location information and held by a 5-4 vote that police need a warrant to get cell tower information to track a suspects movements.  Read a summary of the ruling from scotusblog.com;
  2. However, the Alabama Court of Criminal appeals ruled in 2018 that if you abandon your cell phone at the scene of the crime, the police don’t need a warrant to search it.  In that case the suspect was startled and somehow left his phone in the victims car after he had broken in to the vehicle.
  3. Law enforcement, if motivated, and with a warrant, can probably break into your phone like they did to the phone of a 2015 domestic terrorist;
  4. Read the Alabama Supreme Court’s opinion in this case and see how the cell phone expert put the pieces together;
  5. If you’ve got a question about what your cell phone knows, call and expert.  But if you need a lawyer, call Browne House Law in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.