In contrast with last week’s Central District of California ruling, which dismissed a suit for plaintiff’s inability to plead more than $5k in damages arising from privacy violation, the Northern District of California has greenlighted a plaintiff’s suit for privacy breach based on a pleading that plaintiff “traded” his confidence in return for RockYou’s product and promise not to breach said confidence. Claridge v. RockYou, 10 civ 01382 (NDCA, May 2, 2011).
Plaintiff in the RockYou case took a different approach than plaintiff in last week’s Specific Media case — which was dismissed to plaintiff’s failure to sufficiently plead damages. In Specific Media, plaintiff attempted to utilize the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act against a defendant that allegedly violated their privacy with browser flash cookies and tracking. The Act requires plaintiffs to prove minimum damages of $5k which plaintiff failed to plead.
In RockYou, plaintiff instead relied on a mutual promise (read: contract) theory by arguing that RockYou promised to safeguard the plaintiff’s private data in return for plaintiff using its product. Thus, a pleading that RockYou breached this promise was sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss.
Nevertheless, the court noted that it “has doubts about plaintiff’s ultimate ability to prove his damages theory in this case,” and that “[i]f it becomes apparent, through discovery, that no basis exists upon which plaintiff could legally demonstrate tangible harm via the unauthorized disclosure of personal information, the court will dismiss plaintiff’s claims for lack of standing at the dispositive motion stage.” Thus, plaintiff gets to stay in the game a bit longer and perhaps hold out for a better settlement, but he will probably lose at the summary judgment stage.
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