Ashley Madison lawsuit seeks more lead plaintiffs
Published Friday, August 21, 2015 8:15AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, August 21, 2015 12:43PM EDT
Two Canadian law firms have now filed class-action lawsuits on behalf of Canadians whose identity may have been exposed in a massive data breach this week on the adultery website Ashley Madison.
Toronto-based Charney Lawyers and Windsor-based Sutts Strosberg LLP jointly announced Thursday they were launching a suit against Avid Dating Life Inc. and Avid Life Media Inc., the corporations that run AshleyMadison.com.
The firms say they are representing Canadian clients of the site whose names, home addresses and message history were revealed to the public after hackers infiltrated and downloaded their private information.
David Robins, a partner at Sutts Strosberg, says the plaintiffs allege a number of violations, including negligence, breach of contract, and breach of privacy.
“They were promised confidentiality. The reason they were enticed to go to Ashley Madison was the promise of anonymity, and now all that information has been leaked,” Robins told CTV News Channel.
Ted Charney, of Toronto-based Charney Lawyers, says his firm has received numerous calls from Canadian Ashley Madison clients who want to know their legal options.
“The phone hasn’t stopped ringing,” Charney told CTV’s Canada AM Friday.
He said while many are calling to ask to be part of any class action, only one person has been willing to use his own name in the suit.
That man is Eliot Shore, an Ottawa man who used the site to seek companionship following the death of his wife of 30 years. He never met anybody through the site and had forgotten he had signed up until the hacking and data breach.
Although Shore is so far the only name on the lawsuit filing, Charney says that could be enough.
“The beauty of class action in Canada is you only need one or two people to come forward and be willing to be named in order to be the representative plaintiffs,” he said.
The lawsuit would be litigated using their circumstances, and any court decisions made on their behalf would affect everyone in the class.
Still, Charney says the firms are also searching for more representative plaintiffs, preferably from every province. They will seek a court order to allow the rest of the plaintiffs to remain anonymous.
Charney says there haven’t been many privacy-breach class actions in Canada and the law is just beginning to develop.
“It’s a relatively new area of law in Canada,” he said.
But he notes the Ontario Court of Appeal recently recognized a new invasion of privacy tort (or violation), called “intrusion upon seclusion,” which has laid the legal groundwork in this area of law. In that case, the court decided that the range of damages in privacy-breach cases can range from a low of $2,500 for a minor privacy violation, to $25,000, for a more severe privacy breach.
A severe privacy breach, said Charney, would likely be one in which someone’s reputation was affected by the breach, or their job or family were negatively affected.
“The damages are probably going to be on the higher end, in my opinion. And when you multiply that by the number of people involved, we’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said.
Plaintiffs who suffered financial losses from the privacy breach – such as those who lost their job or their business as a result – might be entitled to further damages.
Charney said the next step is for a judge to be assigned to the case to decide if it should be certified and become a national class action. That process would likely take at least six months. After that, the case will either go to trial or be settled by both parties out of court.