Pa. Supreme Court Rules Employers Have Legal Duty to Protect Employees’ Personal Information from Data Breaches

On November 21, 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) had a legal duty to exercise reasonable care to protect sensitive employee information against an unreasonable risk of harm when that information is stored on an internet-accessible computer system. Dittman v. UPMC, No. 43 WAP 2017 (Pa. Nov. 21, 2018). In doing so, the Court made clear that the criminal acts of third parties who may breach a computer system do not alleviate the legal duty on a business to protect such information. The Court further held that the economic loss doctrine (a doctrine that precludes tort cases where the loss is purely monetary) did not apply in this case because the legal duty to protect sensitive employee information exists independently from any contractual obligations between the parties.

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