Court Says Rams Head's Insurance Company Will Have to Pay for Defense in Cases Claiming Illegal Videotaping of Women at Night Club

Court Says Rams Head's Insurance Company Will Have to Pay for Defense in Cases Claiming Illegal Videotaping of Women at Night Club

A Maryland entertainment fixture, Rams Head at Savage Mills, Maryland, will receive insurance coverage to pay for its defense in lawsuits charging that the nightclub owner’s son surreptitiously taped women who were using the restroom at the Howard County, Maryland restaurant and tavern.

While a Rams Head patron was using the club’s single-occupancy women’s restroom, a portable camera fell onto the floor from underneath a sink. The woman reported the incident to the police, who identified the nightclub’s general manager and majority owner, Kyle Muehlhauser as the culprit. Muehlhauser pleaded guilty to two counts of conducting video surveillance with prurient intent in violation of Maryland criminal law.

The Baltimore Sun reported that police said the camera contained images of six women on its memory card. The women could not be identified, police said.

Police also said the memory card also included blurred images of a man wearing a black shirt and gray pants installing the camera and that when detectives reviewed video from the restaurant and saw a man matching the same description, he was later identified as Kyle Muehlhauser. In addition, DNA evidence found on the camera was matched to Muehlhauser and police seized additional evidence when they served a search warrant at his home, the Baltimore Sun reported.

Section 3-902 of the Criminal Law Article provides that a person may not with prurient intent conduct visual surveillance of (1) an individual in a private place without the consent of that individual; or (2) the private area of an individual by use of a camera without the consent of the individual under circumstances in which a reasonable person would believe that the private area of the individual would not be visible to the public, regardless of whether the individual is in a public or private place.

The statute defines “visual surveillance” as the “deliberate, surreptitious observation of an individual by any means, including with the use of cameras.” Private place includes any room in which a person can reasonably be expected to fully or partially disrobe and has a reasonable expectation of privacy. The Maryland surveillance law expressly includes restrooms as private places.

The Rams Head Group, owned by Muehlhauser and his father, operates restaurants in Savage, Annapolis, Crownsville and Queen Anne's County, as well as concert venues Rams Head Center Stage at Maryland Live casino in Hanover and Rams Head Live in Baltimore. The group also operates Pier Six Pavilion for Baltimore City, which owns the venue.

Rams Head Group said in a statement that only the Savage Mills location was involved in the videotaping.

Legal Action

Two class action complaints were filed in the Circuit Court for Howard County against Rams Head and Muehlhauser. Maryland’s visual surveillance statute provides for a private cause of action for individuals subjected to unlawful surveillance.

The plaintiffs said in court papers that from March 2, 2012 to May 9, 2014, Muehlhauser put a camera in the women’s restroom at Rams Head Tavern to “conduct visual surveillance of the female patrons and employees using the toilets” in an attempt to “satiate his sexual perversions at the expense of the privacy of the female patrons and employees.”

The Court of Special Appeals said the insurer has to defend Rams Head. The court said the insurance company issued insurance policies that provide coverage for damages Rams Head become legally obligated to pay because of, among other offenses, the invasion of the right of private occupancy of a room that a person occupies committed by or on behalf of its owner.

However, while ruling that the insurance company had to pick up the tab to defend the Savage Mills club, the court did say that the insurance company does not have to defend Muehlhauser. The insurer had asked the court for a ruling about its obligation to provide a defense in the two lawsuits filed against Rams Head at Savage Mills and Muehlauser.

If you are the victim of unlawful surveillance or have had visual surveillance charges made against you, you should talk to a Baltimore visual surveillance attorney. A Maryland unlawful videotaping attorney can help. The experienced attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas J. Maronick can provide you with the legal assistance you need. You can contact Thomas Maronick on his cellphone at 202.288.0167, the law office at 410.885.1775 or via our website for a free consultation.