One of the top news stories this past holiday season involved a major cyber-attack on one of the nation’s top movie studios, Sony Pictures. The incident centered on an unreleased film called “The Interview” in which characters played by Seth Rogan and James Franco are embroiled in a plot to assassinate the current leader of North Korea. In light of the data breach and related terrorist threats in the lead up to the film’s release, Sony felt forced to completely overhaul its strategy for releasing the film, announcing first that film’s Christmas Day release would be completely canceled, after which it chose to exhibit it in a limited number of theaters while simultaneously releasing it online for home viewing.
The cyber-attack on Sony involved massive leaks of internal emails, employee records, and even unreleased upcoming films. According to some reports, Sony’s entire network was crippled by the hackers, who exposed large amounts of personal information and data, in addition to valuable intellectual property. While the scale and details of this attack are unique, in many other aspects it resembles other hacking efforts in which individuals’ sensitive personal information such as names, dates of birth, and financial information are divulged. As is often the case in such attacks, class action lawsuits are filed on behalf of those harmed by the attack.
Holding responsible parties accountable
To date, six class action lawsuits have already been filed in connection with the Sony Pictures cyber-attack. In the most recent class action, the movie studio’s parent company has been accused of “failing to take the necessary steps to secure” the personal information of employees. The suit was initiated by a software engineer who claims that Sony “knew or should have known that it was failing to take the necessary steps to secure its current and former employees’ [personally identifiable information],” as a result of which “current and former employees and their families will have to monitor their data for years to come and have been potentially exposed to a lifetime of heightened risk of identity theft and fraud.”
Class actions may be the answer when many parties are harmed
Class action lawsuits, such as the ones filed in the Sony incident, can be the ideal procedural device through which plaintiffs can fight for the rights of a larger group of individuals that have been harmed. Through class action suits, the courts can redress the harm that might otherwise be unmanageable in light of the number of individual lawsuits that would need to be filed. Class actions have proven especially useful in medical device malpractice cases, employment benefits matters, and shareholder actions in which thousands of people may be affected.