Townsend v Sun Life Financial, 2012 FC 550, confirms
the Federal Court's reluctance to award damages for trivial
breaches of privacy under Section 16 of the Personal
Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).
In this case, Sun Life Financial accidentally copied a letter
containing sensitive medical information to the individual's
insurance advisor. Sun Life Financial acknowledged the privacy
breach in sending the letter.
The Court reiterated and followed its position in Randall v
Nubodys Fitness Centres, 2010 FC 681 at para. 55
[Randall] that a reward for damages under Section 16 of
PIPEDA should be made "only in the most egregious of
circumstances." In assessing the seriousness of the breach,
the Court considered the impact of the breach on the individual,
Sun Life Financial's conduct, and whether Sun Life Financial
benefited from the breach.
Here, the Court found the impact on the individual was minimal,
as the disclosure was limited to the individual's insurance
advisor, who appeared not to have noticed the personal information
and promptly destroyed the letter upon request. Moreover, the Court
found Sun Life Financial's conduct to be commendable, both in
acknowledging the error and informing the individual of the
disclosure, and in taking steps to promptly correct its policies
and procedures. The Court dismissed the application.
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