Justices to Tackle Privacy Litigation Exception

     (CN) – The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether lawyers can retrieve confidential information from state motor vehicle records to solicit clients.
     The high court on Wednesday granted certiorari in the case of Marachich v. Spears, which raises questions about the scope of the “litigation exception” to the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act of 1994.
     A group of South Carolina attorneys used this exception to retrieve the names, phone numbers and addresses of thousands of car buyers who were then targeted as potential plaintiffs in several “group action” lawsuits against car dealerships.
     The buyers filed a federal class action, claiming the mailings they received from lawyers violated their privacy rights.
     A federal judge sided with the lawyers, and the 4th Circuit affirmed in a decision that placed it at odds with other federal appeals courts.
     The three-judge panel found that “solicitation is an accepted and expected element of, and is inextricably intertwined with, conduct satisfying the litigation exception under the DPPA.”
     The Supreme Court justices will decide if the 4th Circuit was wrong to extend the litigation exception to lawyers using the protected data to find clients for potential lawsuits, as opposed to evidence for existing lawsuits.
     They will also decide if the exception allows a lawyer who files an action that’s effectively a “place holder” lawsuit to retrieve personal DPPA information solely to solicit clients for that action.

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