Claims by seven members of Siptu against their union for breaching data protection rights have been thrown out by a judge who ordered them to pay the union’s legal costs.
Four claimants who failed to turn up in the Circuit Civil Court to prosecute their claims had their cases struck out with orders to pay Siptu’s costs. The court heard another claimant had died since lodging his claim.
Judge James O’Donohue, dismissing the three cases argued before the court with costs, said there had been rulings by data and legal authorities in this and other jurisdictions that proof of “more than minimal loss” was necessary before such cases could succeed. Since 2020 none of the claimants had suffered ill effects from distribution of the email.
The men, who are involved in the construction industry, had sought unlimited damages for loss and mental distress arising out of admitted breaches of data protection legislation through the illegal sharing of some of their personal information.
One of the claimants who gave evidence relevant to his own and two other claims told the court he had suffered emotional stress regarding fears for a member of his family who lived alone for five days of the week.
Barrister Matthew Jolley, for Siptu, told the judge that the union conceded it had inadvertently erred in sending an email containing the claimants’ names and addresses to a group of 212 other Siptu members when an employee of the transport, energy, aviation and construction division of the union attached an incorrect document to an email.
“Once this was discovered, within days Siptu apologised sincerely and unequivocally to the members concerned and immediately contacted the recipients of the email asking that they disregard and delete it,” Mr Jolley said. In a letter, the union had stated it hoped the 212 members who had received the email would respect the rights of their fellow members and act accordingly.
He told the judge the incident had been reported to the Data Protection Commission and Siptu had taken action to implement new controls on its email systems and working practices to avoid such incidents in the future.
Cross-examined by Mr Jolley, the witness outlining the significance of the cases before the court, with potentially dozens of others coming down the line, said he had not suffered any loss “yet” arising from the May 2020 error nor had any member of his family been approached.