Pennsylvania Data Breach Case Survives Motion to Dismiss

Regional Women’s Health Group, formerly known as Abington Reproductive Medicine and also known as Sincera Reproductive Medicine (Sincera), an entity that provides reproductive medicine to patients, suffered a data breach in 2020 when a hacker gained access to its network where all patient data was stored.

Three Philadelphia-area Sincera patients, on behalf of a proposed class of similar patients, sued Sincera alleging negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, violation of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (“UTPCPL”), and for a declaratory judgment. Sincera moved to dismiss the claims in their entirety.

On May 24th, 2022, Judge Joel H. Slomsky in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania denied Sincera’s motion and permitted the case to go forward in discovery. Judge Slomsky did dismiss one portion of one claim, ruling that negligence per se based only on an alleged HIPAA violation does not pass muster based on Bailey v. Hosp. of the Univ. of Pennsylvania, 266 A.3d 654 (Pa. Super. 2021) (“Ms. Bailey’s undeveloped arguments … concerning any common law duty.”).

Judge Slomsky’s opinion puts to rest a number of standard data breach defenses and is significant for several reasons. First, he found that the risk of cyber-attack is foreseeable such that patients are owed a duty of care to protect their sensitive data. Second, a negligence per se claim can be based on Section 5 of the FTC at the pleading stage. Third, alleging the loss of value of personal information (which itself is “property” with “value”), and “voluntarily” paying for credit monitoring services to mitigate potential loss, is considered damage sufficient to bring negligence and UTPCPL claims. Finally, members of the medical profession owe patients a fiduciary duty based on the confidential nature of those relationships.

What Happens Next?

Going forward, this nationwide class action case will move towards the discovery phase, where the plaintiffs will continue to battle for the rights of data breach victims. We need your help to make this class as strong as it can be. If you are a victim of the Sincera data breach, or another data breach where your personal information has been exposed, we would like to hear from you. Our class action attorneys are capable of assisting clients nationwide, so do not hesitate to contact us online or by dialing us directly at (215) 278-4449 and getting a FREE consultation. We are also accepting case referrals from other law firms and legal professionals.