Punitive Damages Sought
Punitive Damages SoughtAll firms and government agencies in the incident say they are satisfied with the Regina police assessment that information from the stolen hard drive was not accessed or copied. ISM spokeswoman Anne Mowat confirmed that the hard drive was taken from a standard PC workstation and was a backup to information stored elsewhere. "Even if that is proven to be the case, the organizations cannot be absolved of neglecting their duties to protect their clients information," says lawyer Merchant. He plans to recover costs on behalf of clients like Taylor, who says he spent about $1,200 changing bank accounts and obtaining new personal documents. Merchant also plans to seek even heftier punitive damages from the courts. "Here you have very large, reputable organizations like IBM, Co-operators and Investors Group, and their course of conduct has been totally unacceptable," says Merchant. "They have shown negligence in the way they simply passed off personal information about their clients to a third party, without adequately ensuring its security. The [punitive] award has to say to the corporate world, you cannot show this lack of care with personal information."
Talk of punitive damages and the resulting negative publicity are reasons why companies need strategies to deal with the loss of private information as part of their crisis plans, says Jo-Anne Polak, head of the National Crisis Practice for public relations firm Hill & Knowlton in Ottawa. "In a crisis, you dont scrimp. You spend whatever is required because it can literally mean the life or death of a company," she says.