Friday, November 21, 2014

Newfoundland Supreme Court considers privacy class action, clears first hurdle to certification

The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador this week considerd the first part of a bifurcated application to certify a class action in Hynes v. Western Regional Integrated Health Authority, 2014 NLTD(G) 137. The cases arose from inappropriate browsing of personal health records by an employe of the defendant health authority. The application was split into two parts and the first focused on whether the pleadings disclosed a cause of action.

The court agreed that the case could proceed on the basis of the following causes of action:

  • breach of privacy based on statutory tort established under the Privacy Act;
  • breach of privacy based on common law tort (“intrusion upon seclusion”);
  • negligence; and
  • breach of contract.

What's remarkable is that Newfoundland already has a statutory tort of invasion of privacy under the Privacy Act. This case stands for the proposition that the existence of the statutory invasion of privacy law does not preclude the existence of the common law "intrusion upon seclusion" tort as described in Jones v Tsige. This is the opposite of the repeated holdings of the courts of British Columbia, where courts have held that the provincial Privacy Act means that the common law tort does not exist there. (See: No common law tort of invasion of privacy in British Columbia, judge finds.)

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