William “Drone Slayer” Merideth used his shotgun to blast an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that he claims hovered near his sun-bathing daughter. The charges of criminal mischief and wanton endangerment against Merideth were dismissed.
The owner of the UAV subsequently filed a federal lawsuit seeking a declaration that the UAV was an aircraft, operating in navigable airspace, within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration, and that the UAV did not violate Merideth’s privacy rights. On March 21, 2017, in John David Boggs v. William Merideth, No. 3:16-cv-6 (W.D.Ky. at Louisville), Judge Thomas Russell said the case was a garden variety state tort case of trespass and invasion of privacy. Judge Russell did not believe this case raised a significant federal issue, did not involve federal parties, and was not important to the federal system. Consequently, the federal case filed by the UAV owner was dismissed.
Unfortunately, this case does not provide clarity on how the use of drones may bring about claims of trespass, privacy, and nuisance. Accordingly, home owners and UAV operators may run the risk that their interaction with UAVs may lead to a “test case” on where, how, and when drones may lawfully be used.