A recent decision in Indiana highlights the data security liability risks facing employers based on the actions of their employees, extending vicarious liability even to cases where the employees were acting wholly for personal purposes. In SoderVick v. Parkview Health Sys., Inc., the Court of Appeals of Indiana reversed summary judgment in favor of the defendant, reviving claims of respondeat superior against Parkview Health Systems, Inc. (“Parkview”) where the hospital’s employee texted personal health information to a third party. No. 19A-CT-2671, 2020 WL 2503923 (Ind. Ct. App. May 15, 2020). We recently noted a decision of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in WM Morrison Supermarks plc v. Various Claimants (“Morrison”) where the Court made the contrary determination, ruling that the large supermarket chain Morrison could not be held vicariously liable as a matter of law for the intentional acts of a rogue employee who posted the payroll data of Morrison employees on the Internet. But as we also explained, businesses that collect personal information should be cautious about reading too much into that ruling: while the Court allowed the appeal in favor of Morrison, the decision turned on the particular facts of the case (where the rogue employee actively tried to damage his employer). The Parkview Health decision further underscores this need for caution, especially with increased remote work due to COVID-19 where the risk of employers being sued over security breaches caused by their employees is, unfortunately, ever-increasing. READ MORE
In addition, David is a thought leader in the area of privacy and cybersecurity, publishing extensively on the latest issues in the space and serving as a resource to reporters and others writing on breaking legal developments. David is also an active member of the Sedona Conference Working Group 11 on Data Security and Privacy Liability.
Posts by: David Cohen
On May 5, 2020, the Seventh Circuit held in Bryant v. Compass Group USA, Inc. that a plaintiff who asserted a violation of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act’s (“BIPA’s”) notice and consent requirements had Article III standing to pursue her claim in federal court. With respect to BIPA’s retention schedule posting requirement, however, the Seventh Circuit found that allegations of a statutory violation did not, on their own, suffice to confer Article III standing. This decision will make it easier for defendants to keep BIPA claims in federal court, and its standing analysis has significant implications for BIPA cases, as well as other privacy and data security cases more broadly.
The possibility of a cybersecurity incident—and ensuing litigation—is a fact of life for almost every business. Even companies that do not process or handle consumer information collect personal information about their employees that can be targeted by hackers or phishing scams or even inadvertently disclosed, exposing the company to potential liability.
While eliminating cybersecurity litigation risk entirely likely is not feasible, recent cases do highlight some steps that companies seeking to reduce potential exposure to cybersecurity litigation can take:
(1) Recognize that pre-incident statements about the company’s cybersecurity measures can be used to sustain deception-related claims.
(2) Assess the “reasonableness” of your cybersecurity, despite the difficulty of doing so.
(3) Pay attention to how you structure cybersecurity initiatives to protect related documents and communications based on the attorney-client privilege and work product protection.
(4) Recognize that your statements about a cybersecurity incident may be relied on by courts to sustain plaintiffs’ claims.
(5) Consider arbitration clauses, but do so cautiously.
(6) Consider opportunities to contractually allocate or disclaim liability. READ MORE
On August 21, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held in FTC v. Credit Bureau Center, LLC, 2019 WL 3940917 (7th Cir. 2019) that the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) lacks authority to obtain monetary relief under Section 13(b) of the FTC Act. The FTC has relied on Section 13(b) to seek money relief in consumer protection enforcement actions, including privacy and cybersecurity matters, and had, prior to the Credit Bureau decision, suggested an intent to do so more frequently in the future. READ MORE
Amidst mounting pressure to pursue cybersecurity more aggressively, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), the federal government’s most active enforcer in the space, has recently imposed increasingly stringent cybersecurity requirements in its consent orders. Given that FTC consent orders typically carry 20-year terms and a potential fine of $42,530 (which the FTC may contend applies to each consumer subject to a breach), it is vital for companies faced with an FTC cybersecurity investigation to take every possible step to narrow the scope of relief requested by the FTC. Several recent FTC cybersecurity settlements illustrate an emerging pattern: a company that litigates may secure a better deal than it would have received in an initial settlement, if not defeat the action entirely. But when considering whether to settle or litigate with the FTC, companies must still balance the various legal, business, and reputational risks at stake.
Privacy & Cybersecurity Litigation partner Michelle Visser, counsel David Cohen and associate Nicole Gelsomini authored this blog post for the Washington Legal Foundation on the unsettled state of the law on constitutional standing in privacy and cybersecurity cases in the wake of two recent Supreme Court developments. Constitutional standing challenges are, and will continue to be, an important potential tool for privacy and cybersecurity defendants seeking to dismiss certain class actions brought in federal court. To establish standing, a private plaintiff must show, among other things, that he or she faces an actual or imminent concrete injury from the defendant’s conduct. As explained in the Washington Legal Foundation post, however, the Supreme Court recently passed on two chances to clarify the test that will govern this standing inquiry, leaving defendants to wade through conflicting and ambiguous lower court precedent. The uncertain and nuanced state of this area of law underscores the importance of retaining experienced cybersecurity and privacy defense counsel when faced with this type of suit.
In June 2018, medical laboratory LabMD obtained the first-ever court decision overturning a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cybersecurity enforcement action. (The team directing that effort – led by Doug Meal and Michelle Visser – joined Orrick in January 2019). There, the Eleventh Circuit held that an FTC cease-and-desist order imposing injunctive relief requiring LabMD to implement “reasonable” data security was impermissibly vague. In the wake of LabMD, the FTC’s new Chairman, Joseph Simons, stated that he was “very nervous” that the agency lacked the remedial authority it needed to deter allegedly insufficient data security practices and that, among other things, the FTC was exploring whether it has additional untapped authority it could use in this space. In this regard, Chairman Simons and Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter announced that the FTC is examining whether it can “further maximize its enforcement reach, in all areas, through strategic use of additional remedies” such as “monetary relief.” READ MORE
A recent decision from the Supreme Court of Illinois heightens the risks faced by companies collecting biometric information by holding that an individual who is the subject of a violation of Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act—but who suffered no separate harm from the violation—is an “aggrieved party” with a cause of action under the statute. Rosenbach v. Six Flags Entertainment Corp., No. 123186 (Ill. Jan. 25, 2019). This decision will only further embolden plaintiffs’ lawyers to bring biometric privacy suits, and the risk to companies collecting biometric information will likely increase as newly enacted and proposed legislation comes into effect. In this post, we discuss what happened, what is on the horizon, and some steps to consider. READ MORE
Rivera v. Google, a recent federal court decision from the Northern District of Illinois, highlights how challenges to Article III standing are a versatile and useful tool for corporate defendants in privacy and cybersecurity litigation. At the same time, the litigation underscores the significant legal risk faced by entities that collect biometric information and the consequent need to proactively assess and mitigate that risk. READ MORE