Court of appeal advances class action lawsuit in ICBC privacy violations case

A former ICBC employee had sold 78 customers’ information to a criminal organization

The B.C. Court of Appeal has broadened the scope of a class-action lawsuit against ICBC that involves violation of the privacy of 78 customers whose information was sold by an employee to a criminal organization.

Justice Elizabeth Bennett rendered her decision in the case of Ufuk Ari versus ICBC on May 28, with Justices Anne MacKenzie and Gail Dickson concurring.

Ari is the representative plaintiff in a class action lawsuit brought against ICBC for violation of privacy resulting from an ICBC employee accessing the information of 78 ICBC customers and provided it to a criminal organization. The corporation, Bennett noted, retains an enormous collection of personal and private information about British Columbians.

The court heard a former ICBC employee, Candy Elaine Rheaume, “for no business purpose” accessed the personal information – names, addresses, drivers license numbers, vehicle descriptions and identification numbers, licence plate numbers and claim histories – and gave this to an acquaintance in the drug trade, for $25 per name. Rheaume pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining a computer service and received a suspended sentence and nine months’ probation.

Bennett noted the illegally obtained information was used to target 13 of the plaintiffs for vandalism, arson and shootings between April 2011 and January 2012.

“Two people have been found criminally responsible for their involvement in the attacks,” she noted. “The attackers thought they were targeting police officers solely because the vehicles were parked at or near the Justice Institute” in New Westminster.

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While Rheaume was not named as a defendant in the class action lawsuit Ari’s lawyer argued ICBC is vicariously liable for her wrongdoing.

The plaintiffs are claiming general and pecuniary damages for violation of privacy, expenses paid for alternate accommodation, security and moving expenses, and loss of past and future income.

There is a publication ban on information that could identify any potential class members except in the case of those who have already begun proceedings in B.C. Supreme Court.

The matter was brought to appeal after a lower court judge found no evidence of misconduct on ICBC’s part and concluded Rheaume hadn’t violated the privacy of other affected residents at the primary plaintiffs’ premises because she didn’t accessed their names.

The court heard that after the breach ICBC cooperated with police and strengthened its security protocols.

“The chambers judge certified the class proceeding but declined to include other residents at the premises of the primary plaintiffs in the class or to certify the issue of punitive damages,” Bennett noted. “It is not plain and obvious that the statute is not broad enough to extend to the other residents, and ICBC’s subsequent laudable conduct does not necessarily insulate it from an award of punitive damages.”

Bennett decided to allow the appeal, include the other residents in the class action and also certified punitive damages as a common issue.

“The targets of the criminal organization were individuals and their families who attended at the Justice Institute, who were not necessarily the registered owners of the vehicles,” Bennett said. “It is arguable that anyone living at the address where the vehicle was registered had a reasonable expectation that their address would not be provided to a criminal organization.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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