Social media privacy cases continue to grow under the Stored Communications Act (“SCA”) (see our prior alert on the Ehling decision).  The SCA provides a private right of action for unauthorized, intentional access of another’s communications held in electronic storage, allowing the plaintiff to recover actual damages, plus any profits made by the violator, in an amount no less than $1,000.

In a recent social media privacy case—Maremont v. Susan Fredman Group, Ltd., No. 10 C7811, 2014 WL 812401 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 3, 2014)—the Northern District of Illinois lowered the bar for establishing a claim under the SCA.  Specifically, the court held that the defendant was not entitled to summary judgment on the plaintiff’s SCA claim that the defendant accessed her social media accounts without her permission, regardless of whether the plaintiff could prove actual damages.  The court’s decision furthers an emerging federal court split on whether a plaintiff must show actual damages in order to recover statutory damages under the SCA.

With this decision, the Northern District of Illinois has increased the prospect of more social media privacy cases under the SCA surviving summary judgment.  And, though this is one district court decision, employers should monitor whether other courts continue to follow suit and, if so, take additional precautions to avoid running afoul of the SCA.

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Photo of Joseph O’Keefe Joseph O’Keefe

Joseph C. O’Keefe is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and Co-Head of the Restrictive Covenants, Trade Secrets & Unfair Competition Group.

Joe is an experienced trial lawyer who, for more than 30 years, has litigated employment disputes of all…

Joseph C. O’Keefe is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and Co-Head of the Restrictive Covenants, Trade Secrets & Unfair Competition Group.

Joe is an experienced trial lawyer who, for more than 30 years, has litigated employment disputes of all types on behalf of employers, before federal and state courts, arbitral tribunals (e.g. FINRA and AAA), and state and federal administrative agencies throughout the U.S. Joe has litigated employment-related lawsuits alleging breach of non-compete agreements, theft of trade secrets, discrimination, sexual harassment, whistleblowing, wage and hour violations, Title IX violations, breach of contract, defamation, fraud and other business related torts. Joe’s practice includes representing clients in complex class and collective litigation, including alleged violation of state and federal pay equity laws, violations of wage and hour laws and discrimination claims. Joe’s experience includes appellate work in both federal and state courts.

In addition to his extensive litigation practice, Joe regularly advises employers, writes and speaks on a wide range of employment related issues. He counsels clients concerning pay equity, use of Artificial Intelligence in the workplace, management of personnel problems, ADA/FMLA compliance, reductions in force, investigation of employee complaints, state and federal leave laws, wage and hour issues, employment policies and contracts.

Joe represents employers in a variety of industries including financial services, higher education (colleges and universities), pharmaceuticals/medical devices, health care, technology, communications, fashion, consumer products, publishing, media and real estate. He frequently writes articles concerning developments in the law and speaks at seminars concerning legal developments in the labor and employment law field.