Insurers Hacked Private Legal Files to get an Edge in Worker’s Comp. Cases
A client of a California law firm is claiming that insurers hacked into tens of thousands of confidential client files, as part of a nationwide scheme to get an advantage in worker’s compensation cases. The federal class action suit filed by Hector Casillas, names as defendants not only the insurers allegedly involved, but also law firm Knox Ricksen, four attorneys and a claims service company, as well as as two insurance company employees in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit states, “Powerful insurance companies and their co-conspirators who, because of their immense wealth and power, acted as if they were above the law” hired investigators who hacked into and stored attorney-client files. It alleges that the files in which unauthorized access occurred concerned worker’s comp cases where the defendant insurers were potentially liable for making payments. Knox Ricksen, the suit states, “willingly and knowingly participated.”
Hector Casillas, a client of the California firm Reyes & Barsoum, claims his lawyers first suspected hacking at an April 20, 2014 hearing. At that hearing, opposing counsel from the Knox Ricksen firm turned up with an attorney-client privileged intake packet for Casillas’ case. It listed Rony Barsoum’s name and included the firm’s retainer agreement. The lawsuit alleges, that when asked by the judge at the hearing how they got the confidential file for Casillas’ case, the opposing counsel gave several explanations, before finally admitting they didn’t know. Representatives of Knox Ricksen could not immediately be reached.
The lawsuit asserts causes of action for alleged fraud, conversion and invasion of privacy and violation of state and federal statutory law, among other claims. Remedies sought include injunctive relief, disgorgement and exemplary damages. The complaint says of the defendants, “Their corrupt conduct evidenced a total disregard for the integrity of the judicial system.”
A state-court lawsuit making similar claims was filed by Reyes & Barsoum against Knox Ricksen in Los Angeles in February. That suit claims that 2,000 case materials were taken from Reyes & Barsoum. That lawsuit also alleges that Knox Ricksen attorneys admitted that they had obtained more than 30,000 files and documents from a password-protected computer network operated by HQ Sign-Up Services Inc., which Reyes & Barsoum used to store privileged and confidential documents.
“Proud of the fruits of their scheme and business practices defendant, Danowitz even showed plaintiff’s a video of how easy it was to steal, hack and illegally download paintiff’s attorney privileged documents and confidential communications and property, conceding that their conduct was an intentional, unethetical, unauthorized accessing, taking, use, disclosure and dissemination of plaintiff’s attorney privileged [materials]. … Subsequently, the plaintiff’s have discoved that defendants have shared its files and property with other law firms.”
The suit seeks unspecified damages, an order restraining defendants from accessing plaintiff’s privileged electronic communications, an order that defendants return all documents they allegedly illegally downloaded and other relief.