The man who shot down a drone over his Kentucky home last year has filed a new legal response to an ongoing lawsuit, arguing that the case should be dismissed because the federal court lacks jurisdiction.
William Merideth shot down a drone flying over his home in June 2015.
The drone’s pilot, David Boggs, filed a lawsuit in January asking the court in Louisville to make a legal determination as to whether his drone’s flight constituted trespassing.
Boggs asked the court to rule that he is entitled to damages of $1,500 for his destroyed drone.”The United States Government has exclusive sovereignty over airspace of the United States pursuant to 49 U.S.C.A. § 40103,” Boggs’ lawyer, James Mackler, wrote in the civil complaint. “The airspace, therefore, is not subject to private ownership nor can the flight of an aircraft within the navigable airspace of the United States constitute a trespass.”
Merideth had previously been cleared on state criminal charges.
How low can you go?
Chad McCoy, Merideth’s attorney, wrote in his March 3 brief that Boggs’ attempt to try to obtain a declaratory judgment is simply not warranted here.
A careful reading of the Complaint reveals the argument to be as follows: The Defendant damaged the Plaintiff’s drone.
The Plaintiff anticipates that the Defendant will try and argue that he was justified in shooting the drone pursuant to Kentucky state trespass laws and KRS 503.080.
To prevent the Defendant from raising that defense, the Plaintiff wants this court to circumvent the argument and declare that there is no state law trespass.
This is an improper use of 28 U.S.C. 2201.
In reality, this is a Bullitt County small claims court case.
As the consumer drone age has taken flight, legal scholars have wondered about this exact situation.
If a drone flies over private property, is it trespassing? The short answer is that American courts have not addressed the question adequately. The best case-law on the issue dates back to 1946, long before inexpensive consumer drones were technically feasible.
That year, the Supreme Court ruled in a case known as United States v.
Causby that a farmer in North Carolina could assert property rights up to 83 feet in the air.
At the time, the Supreme Court did not draw a firm limit.
As the justices concluded:
The airspace, apart from the immediate reaches above the land, is part of the public domain. We need not determine at this time what those precise limits are.
Flights over private land are not a taking, unless they are so low and so frequent as to be a direct and immediate interference with the enjoyment and use of the land. We need not speculate on that phase of the present case.
In June 2015, Ars reported on another case in Modesto, California involving another drone that was shot down by a neighbor.
In that case, the drone’s pilot won an $850 judgment in small claims court in Stanislaus County.
Meanwhile, Boggs and his attorney have until March 28 to reply.