SW Legal studies in Business

Inclusion of Social Security Number in Court Filing Does not Violate Privacy Rights
Description

Appeals court affirmed that the exposure of a social security number in a document filed as part of litigation did not violate the right of the party whose number was exposed. The document was relevant to the litigation, so its filing is accorded absolute privilege.

Topic Court Procedure
Key Words

Privacy; Social Security Number; Court Filing

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Finnerty executed a promissory note payable to Security Bank in the principal amount of $1,160,000. At the end of the term of the note, Security contended that Finnerty failed to repay the principal and sued for default on the note. Finnerty counterclaimed for invasion of privacy associated with Security’s inclusion of his social security number in an exhibit included in the complaint. The trial court granted Security summary judgment on its claim against Finnerty and dismissed Finnerty’s claims against Security. Finnerty appealed.

Decision

Affirmed. There is no question that Finnerty defaulted on the note, so the judgment in favor of Security stands. Finnerty claims that Security’s unauthorized disclosure of his social security number in an exhibit filed with the court, which is a public document, violates his right to privacy and violates the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) which provides federal protection for personal information. The inclusion of the social security number in the documents was pertinent and material to the relief sought by Security. Hence, the exhibit was protected by absolute privilege accorded to pleadings. As Security was enforcing its rights on the note, the disclosure did not violate GLBA. There is also no claim under Georgia law for invasion of privacy. Finnerty, as wrongdoer, is responsible for a consequence which is probable under ordinary experience, as would be the case in the provision of documents relating to the note in the court filing.

Citation

Finnerty v. State Bank and Trust Co., ---S.E.2d--- (2009 WL 3784583, Ct. App., Ga., 2009)

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