Justices: Pipeline investigation overrules homeowner's privacy

Steve Korris Mar. 26, 2009, 8:49am

Dan Phillip Summy of Polk County must open his door to unwelcome strangers so they can shoot pictures inside, judges of the Ninth District appeals court decided on March 19.

Chief Justice Steve McKeithen and Justice Hollis Horton overruled Summy's privacy rights in favor of Enbridge Pipelines, a utility taking his property.

They affirmed court of law Judge Stephen Phillips, who ruled that Enbridge Pipelines needs pictures in order to determine how much it owes Summy.

"The inspection ordered by the trial court is not overbroad and is relevant to issues in dispute in the condemnation proceeding," McKeithen wrote.

Justice Charles Kreger dissented, calling it an unnecessary invasion of privacy.

"The photographic depictions of the exterior of Summy's modest and unassuming residence contained in the record obviate any reasonable need for additional photographic or videotaped evidence of the home's interior," he wrote.

He quoted a court that denied discovery in a tax case and wrote, "I equate a person's right to privacy in the interior of his home equal to or greater than his right to privacy in and to financial documents."

Enbridge Pipelines experts already rendered an opinion on the effect of their easement on the value of the property, he wrote.

"Therefore, the only purpose for gaining such entry at this point in the litigation would be for impeachment of Summy's expert witness," he wrote.

The Texas Supreme Court doesn't allow discovery of sensitive personal matters only for impeachment purposes, he wrote.

Thomas Buchanan and Mitchell Beard represented Enbridge Pipelines. William Noel represented Summy.

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