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Employer may be responsible for employee's theft of confidential info

The Massachusetts Appeals Court recently ruled that an insurance agency could face liability after an employee with an arrest record allegedly took personal contact information from a confidential database and shared it with her boyfriend, who then used it to intimidate an individual. The employee did have a prior federal weapons charge that was resolved without conviction upon completion of a diversion program. She was employed by the insurance company for several years.

The employee allegedly accessed the information after her boyfriend was in a motor vehicle collision while fleeing from police. The employee allegedly accessed the insurer's database to confirm whether the other party to the collision filed a claim and to gather their personal information. The employee then gave her boyfriend the individual's personal information and the boyfriend made violent threats in an effort to get the claim dropped.

The threatened individual sued the insurance agency for negligent hiring and retention and negligent supervision. The trial court dismissed the claim ruling that the underlying criminal charge (for which there was no conviction) was not one that should have suggested to her employer that she was unfit to handle sensitive, confidential information. The appeals court reversed on the basis that the employer's failure to investigate the underlying charges was enough to allow the claim to go to a jury.

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