In Lawlor v. North American Corporation (lower court opinion
reported at FEB hyperlink), the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that
the employer was liable for the actions of its outside investigator
who engaged in "pretexting" to obtain a former
employee's personal cell phone records. Lawlor, a salesperson,
left North American to work for a competitor. Concerned that she
was committing unfair competition, the company retained an outside
investigator to investigate her activities. Although North American
did not specifically ask for her personal cell phone phone records,
the vendor provided those records to North American, and North
American reviewed them for calls to North American customers after
her termination. Upon learning that North American had accessed her
personal telephone records, Lawlor successfully sued for invasion
of privacy, and obtained a jury award against North American of
$65,000 in compensatory damages, and $1.75 million in punitive
damages. The court affirmed the compensatory damages award
concluding that the jury could reasonably infer that North American
knew that its vendor unlawfully obtained Lawlor's private cell
phone records. However, the court reduced the punitive damages
award to $65,000, as there was no evidence that North American
engaged in an intentional, premeditated scheme to harm Lawlor.
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