Can she use text messages against us in court?

Q: We were doing a landscape job, the customer was always texting and threatening. After 7 days she once again flipped out. She ripped everything up. She texted threats to show up at his family and friend or have someone else show up. The police are charging her with criminal harassment. She sued in civil court. The judge told us we are not to bring anything up about the criminal case. She presented only the text messages that showed her in the best light. We couldn’t show our texts because they are connected to the harassment case. She presented her time line based on her surveillance which includes audio. The job was in the back yard of her home and nobody was home. She was listening to private conversations the whole time as well as recording without our knowledge. PA is a two-party consent. We tried bringing that up, but the judge said that would be criminal and we aren’t discussing that. Police and DA said it is not criminal because the law hasn’t caught up with tech. We wanted punitive damages, under Intrusion upon seclusion. Be we can’t be heard at all. I am so confused. We lost the civil badly, our hands were tide. What are my options, if any? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: My advice is to appeal from what sounds like a District Justice award? You have thirty days. Once you file your appeal in Civil Arbitration of Allegheny County, she will need to file her complaint again. You will be able to file an answer to that complaint in which you raise your defenses. There was a decision this year handed down by the Superior Court of PA which makes it very difficult for a party to admit text messages in a hearing without proper authentication. You may benefit from this law. I would pursue the criminal case. You should contact a lawyer to help you with the appeal.

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