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Employer Liability – Worker Uses Company Data Access – Customer Gets Threats

Employers need to protect company data from insider misuse


Massachusetts Appeals Court decided a case involving an insurance agency employee who used her work computer to access claims data for an improper purpose  – to get information that was used to threaten a claimant policyholder.  Adams v. Congress Auto Insurance Agency, Inc., No. 15-P-452 (Mass. App. Ct. 12/21/16)

The insurance office worker, Burgos had a good job, a good car and a boy friend…not in that category.  The boy friend, driving Burgos’ Mercedes was speeding, fleeing from police when he drove into Adams.  The boy friend fled the scene, Adams filed a claim against Burgos’ car insurer.  Burgos used her work computer to identify who had filed the claim from the boy friend’s crash.  The boy friend called the claimant, Adams and threatened there would be “issues” from a “very, very dangerous man” arising from continuing the claim. Burgos and her boy friend pled to witness intimidation and conspiracy in connection with the threat made to Adams.

Adams then brought suit against Burgos’ employer for negligent failure to protect Adam’s confidential information in the restricted computer claims information system.

companies whose employees have access to the confidential data of others have a duty to take reasonable measures to protect against the misuse of that data.

The Court compared computer access to private information, to cases where apartment keys are entrusted to employees.  Employers need to check the suitability of these people given access, in light of the risks.

The employer argued that it should not be accountable to expect criminal behavior by its employees but the Appeals Court said that were plenty of facts in this case to make out a question for the jury.

The threats caused Adam emotional distress but the employer defendant argued the case should be thrown out due to lack of physical injury. There was testimony from a psychologist linking the threats to worsening of mental health conditions and the Court said this was enough for the question to reach the jury.

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Charles W. Cobb

Attorney at Law


320 Nevada Street Ste 301,

Newton MA 02460




(978) 979-1223

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