In another recent example of a law firm running afoul of privacy requirements in litigation (See also the discussion of Kim v. St. Elizabeth’s), U.S. District Judge Michael Davis recently assessed a $5,000 sanction against the law firm for electronically filing an affidavit that contained the Social Security numbers and dates of births of 179 people. Engeseth v. County of Isanti, No. 06-CV-2410 (D. Minn.), Oct. 20, 2009. The court’s order was premised on Rule 5.2(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure which states that filings in federal court may only include the last four digits of an individual’s social security number or taxpayer identification number. Judge Davis noted that:
The Court is deeply concerned with the harmful and widespread ramifications associated with negligent and inattentive electronic filing of court documents. Although electronic filing significantly improves the efficiency and accessibility of our court system, it also elevates the likelihood of identity theft and damage to personal privacy when lawyers fail to follow the federal and local rules.
In addition to the $5,000 sanction, Judge Davis required the plaintiff’s law firm to pay the costs associated with preventing identity theft for the 179 harmed individuals including informing the individuals and paying the costs of FICO standard services consisting of a credit report and a 12-month subscription to FICO Quarterly Monitoring.