November 28, 2018- Reversing two previous lower court decisions, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that companies now have a common law duty to protect stored employees’ electronic data from data breaches.
Dittman v. UPMC, 43 WAP 2017
In Dittman the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that:
- 1) An employer has a legal duty to exercise reasonable care to safeguard its employees’ sensitive personal information stored by the employer on an internet-accessible computer system.
- 2) Under Pennsylvania’s economic loss doctrine, recovery for purely pecuniary damages is permissible under a negligence theory provided that the plaintiff can establish the defendant’s breach of a legal duty arising under common law that is independent of any duty assumed pursuant to contract.
This means that employers that require employees to provide personal and financial information must safeguard this information from the foreseeable risk of a data breach.
In Dittman names, birth dates, social security numbers, tax forms and bank account of 62,000 University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UMPC) employees was stolen from UPMC’s computer systems and used to file fraudulent tax returns. Other employees reported that the hackers attempted to obtain their tax refunds.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that since the data stored in UMPC’s computer systems was collected as a requirement for employment, UMPC had ‘a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect them against unreasonable risk of harm arising out of that act.”
Future Litigation in Pennsylvania
Kohn, Swift & Graf, P.C. is currently investigating any possible claims against companies who failed to protect their employees’ electronic data. If you or someone you know, provided personal information to their employer that was later stolen in a data breach, please contact us today. All consultations are free of charge. You may be eligible to be included in a Class Action Lawsuit.
Kohn, Swift & Graf is a national leader in class actions, including complex consumer litigation. With experienced consumer class action attorneys and a competent support staff, our firm strives to provide the highest quality of service to our clients. We treat each case with careful attention to ensure that consumers get the justice they deserve. KS&G is centrally located in Philadelphia, PA. We handle cases nationwide.