Data breach of personal information of NSW Ambulance officers results in class action and settlement of $275,000

December 25, 2019 |

The data breach of personal information relating to New South Wales Ambulance officers in 2016 has had its conclusion in the resolution of a class action in the New South Wales Supreme Court earlier this month.  One hundred and six officers will receive a total of $275,000. The breach was egregious, being the workers compensation files of a officers including psychiatric assessments.   It was originally reported in the Sydney Morning Herald in November 2017 in Paramedics launch class action over the sale of their medical records to personal injury solicitors.

It is notable for being the first privacy class action which has been resolved. It highlights the need for employers to be rigorous in controlling access and use of personal information they collect, particularly sensitive information.

The success of the class also highlights what has always been known, there is scope to take action for interferences with privacy.  Notwithstanding  judicial reluctance to recognise a tort of interference with privacy and sloth to outright resistance by the legislatures at the State and Federal level legislating for such a tort there is ample scope to rely on equity and other torts to obtain redress.

The Sydney Morning Herald covered it NSW ambos win $275,000 class action payout after major data breach and provides:

A $275,000 class action payout to NSW Ambulance workers will serve as a “lesson to all businesses” about private data breaches, their solicitor says.

In an Australian first, Justice Julie Ward on Monday accepted a settlement of a class action led by Tracy Evans against the NSW Ambulance Service over a major data breach.

Justice Ward said Ms Evans would receive three times as much as the average claimant in the class action, with 108 workers in total receiving payment.

“I think this is a fantastic result for 108 NSW ambulance workers who have had their workers’ compensation files unlawfully accessed and extracts of it sold to at least one law firm,” solicitor George Newhouse told reporters outside the Law Courts Building on Monday.

Mr Newhouse, from firm Centennial Lawyers, said the “reasonable” payout also had broader implications.

“This is the first privacy class action in Australia – it’s the first to go to court and it’s the first to settle in this way,” he said.

“Employers need to be extremely careful with the data that they collect on their employees and they need to maintain privacy.

“I think this is a lesson to all businesses and people who collect data.”

NSW Ambulance contractor Waqar Malik was convicted of unlawfully disclosing personal information in 2016 after he sold the worker’s compensation files of 130 former and current employees to personal injury lawyers.

The files included medical records such as psychiatric assessments and details of injuries

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