IWIF trial OK'd on wiretap charge

April 09, 2002|By Walter F. Roche | Walter F. Roche,SUN STAFF

The Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that the state Injured Workers Insurance Fund must stand trial on charges it violated state wiretapping laws when it routinely recorded hundreds of conversations between employees and customers.

In a 26-page ruling overturning a decision of the Court of Special Appeals, the state's high court concluded that IWIF's phone monitoring system is the kind of device that Congress and the state legislature intended to strictly regulate.

Attorneys for the fund, which provides workers compensation coverage to some 20,000 Maryland businesses, had argued that IWIF's phone monitoring system qualified for a special exemption under the state law approved by the General Assembly in 1988.

Jeff Schmerling, lead attorney in the case, hailed the decision and said it upholds Maryland residents' right to privacy. Under Maryland's law, telephone conversations can be recorded only with the consent of all parties involved.

The case will be sent back to Baltimore County Circuit Court for a trial to determine whether hundreds of callers to the state-created agency suffered damages and, if so, to what compensation they are entitled.

Dennis Carroll, chief IWIF legal counsel, said the agency will present additional defenses at trial.

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