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Judge tosses suits claiming insurance investigators hacked into lawyers' outside database

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A federal judge in California has tossed two lawsuits claiming that private investigators hired by workers’ comp insurance companies hacked into confidential lawyer files stored in an online file-storage system.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford of California ruled that the alleged hacking didn’t violate state tort law and couldn’t be targeted in a lawsuit filed under the Stored Communications Act.

The hacking didn’t amount to the tort of trespass to electronic chattels because there was no damage or impairment of the computer system, Guilford said in a June 27 decision. And the hacked file management system didn’t qualify as an “electronic communication service” that can be the subject of a civil lawsuit under the Stored Communications Act, he said.

The complaints had alleged the investigators hacked into the database operated by HQSU Sign Up Services at the behest of three insurers, including Berkshire Hathaway Homestate Companies. The investigators allegedly accessed and downloaded more than 30,000 workers’ comp files to help the insurers gain a litigation advantage.

HQSU was an outside contractor that maintained an online repository of case files for various workers’ compensation lawyers.

The plaintiffs were Hector Casillas, Adela Gonzales, and Tomas Montano.

Hat tip to Law360.

See also:

ABA Journal: “Cybersecurity laws are a worldwide but evolving patchwork”

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