Fisher v. Communications Workers of America, 2008 NCBC 18 (N.C. Super. Ct. Oct. 30, 2008)

Plaintiffs claimed that the Defendant Union had violated the North Carolina Identity Theft Protection Act by its posting of a list of their social security numbers on a company bulletin board.  The Plaintifs also made claims for unfair and deceptive trade practices and for invasion of privacy.

The Act specifically provides that a business may not "Intentionally communicate or otherwise make available to the general public an individual's social security number."  N.C. Gen. Stat. §75-62(a)(1).  Defendants argued that the list posted on the bulletin board had not been seen by the "general public" and that it had not been posted there in order to facilitate identity theft.  The Defendants also argued that the bulletin board was used for "internal verification or administrative purposes," and that the posting was therefore exempt under N.C. Gen. Stat. §75-62(b)(2).

The Court rejected these defenses, holding that the Act does not require that the general public actually see the social security numbers in order for there to be a violation.  Judge Diaz also held that the communication of the social security numbers does not need to be made either for the purpose of providing them to the general public or for the purpose of facilitating identity theft.  And as to the "bulletin board defense," Judge Diaz held that this presented a question of fact which could not be resolved on a motion to dismiss.

The Motion as to the unfair and deceptive practice claim was also denied, mainly because the Act provides that “[a] violation of [section 75-62 of the North Carolina General Statutes] is a violation of [the UDTPA].” N.C. Gen. Stat. § 75-62(d) (2007).

The Court did grant the Motion to Dismiss on the invasion of privacy claim, however.  It held that the posting of the social security numbers was "not the type of 'intentional intrusion, "physically or otherwise,"' necessary to state a claim for invasion of privacy by intrusion into seclusion."  It held that this tort requires  "a physical or sensory intrusion or an unauthorized prying into confidential personal records."

The Court also rejected the argument that the posting on the bulletin board could make out an invasion of privacy claim because it was a "public disclosure of private facts."  The Court relied on  Hall v. Post, 323 N.C. 259, 265–70, 372 S.E.2d 711, 714–17 (1988), in which the North Carolina Supreme Court held that the tort does not encompass claims which involve the publication of true but private facts.

Full Opinion

Brief in Support of Motion to Dismiss

Brief in Opposition to Motion to Dismiss

Reply Brief in Support of Motion to Dismiss

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