(CN) – A woman who hacked into a man’s e-mail account to expose his extramarital affair may have violated federal law, the South Carolina Court of Appeals ruled.
Gail Jennings found a card for flowers in her car and correctly suspected that the flowers were not for her. Her husband, Lee Jennings, admitted to having fallen in love with another woman, whom he would not identify.
Gail’s daughter-in-law, Holly Broome, used to work for Lee, so she went into his Yahoo e-mail account by changing his password. Broome read e-mails between Lee and his girlfriend, and printed copies for Gail’s divorce attorney and the private detective Gail had hired.
Lee found out about the e-mail breach during the divorce proceedings. He sued Gail, Broome, Gail’s attorney and the detective.
The trial court ruled in Gail’s favor, stating that Lee did not prove the e-mails were in electronic storage, and that the defendants did not violate the Stored Communications Act (SCA).
On appeal, Judge John Geathers reversed the decision and ruled that Lee had presented enough evidence to bring the case to trial.
Geathers ruled that Yahoo is an electronic communication service, under the terms of the SCA, not a remote computing service, as Gail had argued. One reason is because Lee retained access to the e-mails.
“The previously stored e-mails were stored on Yahoo’s servers so that, if necessary, [Lee] could access them again,” Geathers wrote. “Accordingly, we hold that the e-mails in question were stored ‘for purposes of backup protection’ as contemplated by the SCA.”