No Privacy Act Emotional Damages Allowed, Split Supreme Court Rules in HIV Data Case

March 29, 2012 – In The News
Bloomberg BNA
The US Supreme Court recently ruled that Congress did not intend the Privacy Act provision allowing for “actual damages” to include recovery for emotional distress damages. This ruling reversed a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (FAA v. Cooper, U.S., No. 10-1024, 3/28/12).

Scott L. Vernick, a partner in the firm’s Philadelphia office, was not surprised by the recent ruling. He spoke with Bloomberg BNA about the decision.

Vernick explained to Bloomberg BNA that there is a subtext for the ruling involving the facts of the case. Specifically, the plaintiff never told the FAA about his medical status as required. Because of this, it was unlikely that the court was going to vote to expand damages under the law.

Vernick added, “If the goal was to expand the reading of the statute to include emotional damages, this was not the case with facts that would compel that.”