Supreme Court Justices to Monitor Class Action Over Driver Privacy

April 3, 2006

Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito said last week they were concerned that an insurance company could be forced to pay billions of dollars for buying Florida residents’ vehicle records.

Justices refused to step in and stop a class-action lawsuit filed by a Florida driver under a federal privacy law against Fidelity Federal Bank & Trust.

In an unusual move, Scalia wrote to explain that the court may be interested later in reviewing the case “depending on the course of proceedings.” Alito, the newest member of the court, joined Scalia.

At issue in the case is whether the Florida drivers had to prove actual damage to recover money under the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act.

The insurance company paid a penny each for names and addresses of more than a half million people who registered vehicles with the state. The company hoped to interest the car owners in refinancing their debt.

The company paid $5,656 to the state for the records of about 565,000 drivers in Palm Beach, Martin and Broward counties.

The lawsuit, claiming that the company did not have consent to get the personal information, could cost the company $1.4 billion, Scalia wrote. “Because of other class actions currently pending in Florida, involving the same question, the total amount at stake may reach $40 billion,” Scalia wrote.

The case is Fidelity Federal Bank & Trust v. Kehoe, 05-919.

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