For the second time in a month, allegations of electronic espionage in the midst of local divorce proceedings have led to a lawsuit.
Jeff Lane, proprietor of Nashville-based Lane Change Vending Inc. and of the nonprofit Lane Motor Museum on Murfreesboro Pike, filed suit Wednesday against his ex-wife, Susan Ellen Lane, who co-founded the automotive museum with him in 2001.
The lawsuit, filed in Davidson County Circuit Court, claims that Susan Lane intercepted e-mails between Jeff Lane and his attorneys during their divorce case and that her attorney, Karla Hewitt of Nashville, used information from them to confront the husband during depositions.
A federal lawsuit filed in late October accused former TennCare spokesperson Marilyn Wilson  and her husband of hacking into the e-mail account of a man now married to the husband's former wife. It claims the Wilsons fabricated abusive e-mails to themselves and sent them through the hacked account, leading a judge to rule in their favor in a child custody dispute.
In April, suspicious that attorney-client communications had been compromised, Jeff Lane and his counsel arranged to insert a "red herring" into their e-mail exchanges. Lisa Helton, an attorney at Sherrard & Roe, told Lane in a message "that a certain randomly chosen car in the Museum, the Peel P50, would not be a 'big issue' unless Ms. Hewitt specifically asked Mr. Lane during his deposition if he had received any communications recently concerning that particular car," the complaint states.
Sure enough, in a deposition five days later, Hewitt began to question Lane about the Peel P50, asking "specific questions about whether Mr. Lane had received communications concerning the Peel P50," according to the lawsuit.
"After the questions failed to elicit any information from Mr. Lane as a result of the questions having no basis in fact, Ms. Hewitt took a brief recess. Upon resuming the deposition, Ms. Hewitt asked Mr. Lane several more times whether he had received any communications from anyone recently concerning the Peel P50 whatsoever, which was the exact 'red herring question' contained in the email correspondence from Ms. Helton."
Despite this incident, the couple agreed on terms for a divorce soon afterward, and a final decree was entered on April 30. Jeff Lane agreed to pay his ex-wife $253,000 in a division of household assets and a further $660,000 in alimony.
The agreement grants Jeff Lane ownership of a collection of vehicles that includes a 1955 MG TF, a 1968 Chevy Caprice Stockcar, a 1954 Fiat 500c Wagon, a 1960 Austin Healey, a 1964 Trabant 601, a 1975 Maserati Bora, a 1998 Lotus Elise, a 2002 PCD Saxon Racecar and a 1967 NSU Sport Prinz. A few of those cars are listed on the Lane Motor Museum's Web site  as being on display there, but most are not.
The lawsuit accuses Susan Lane of civil conspiracy, invasion of privacy and violating state wiretapping and identity-theft laws. David Raybin and Sarah Richter of Hollins, Wagster, Weatherly & Raybin brought the case on behalf of Jeff Lane.
A telephone message left for Susan Lane has not been returned. Hewitt issued the following statement to NashvillePost.com:
"I do not believe that my client hacked into her husband's e-mail. I certainly had no knowledge of any such conduct, if it did occur, and as I stated, I don't believe that it did. Mr. Lane's lawsuit is frivolous, especially in light of the fact that the parties' Final Decree/Marital Dissolution Agreement provides that their Agreement constitutes a discharge of all claims arising out of their marital relationship except as provided therein.
"This lawsuit involves baseless allegations of misconduct arising out of their marital relationship, and Mr. Lane has waived his right to pursue them by the document drafted by his own attorney. This lawsuit is simply calculated for the purpose of harassment and should be dismissed."