2:25pm PT by Eriq Gardner
New Lawsuit Claims Sony’s 'The Interview' Put Employees in Danger (Exclusive)
As Sony Pictures confronts new threats from hackers who have exposed corporate secrets, it must also contend with proposed class action lawsuits that blame the company for not doing more to stop or at least mitigate the damage. Already sued once on Monday, Sony is now facing a second lawsuit brought by production managers on some of its most high-profile films including Jerry Maguire, Spider-Man and The Green Hornet.
The latest legal salvo comes from Susan Dukow and Yvonne Yaconelli, the lead plaintiffs in a legal action that seeks restitution for the harm brought by having social security numbers, medical history, human resource records and financial information breached.
The latest lawsuit goes beyond the one filed yesterday by not only blasting Sony for not taking sufficient security safeguards in advance of the hack, but also casting blame for decisions taken in regards to The Interview, the film that's believed to be the motive for what the hackers are doing.
"Various news reports suggest the original script of The Interview included a fake villain, but that Sony specifically changed the script to make North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un the film's villain," states the lawsuit. "Upon information and belief, Sony knew it was reasonably foreseeable that producing a script about North Korea's leader Kim Jon Un would cause a backlash."
Such a negligence claim might be unprecedented, but the lawsuit will attempt to examine whether the release of The Interview "created an unreasonable risk that Plaintiffs' and Class Members' PII [personally identifiable information] would be exposed."
The lawsuit is being handled by attorney Neville Johnson, who not only has gone head-to-head with Sony before in an ongoing lawsuit over home video income, but is also representing Nicole Basile, a freelance film accountant whose name has been used by the hackers in email missives with journalists. The Beverly Hills-based entertainment attorney with an expertise in privacy and class actions could be eyeing more legal action.
As for the lawsuit that was filed on behalf of Dukow, Yaconelli and others today, the complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court goes into the many ways that Sony's data security allegedly fell short. Such hack revelations like thousands of passwords stored in a file named "password," internal company reports about vulnerabilities and more are cited. The lawsuit also is primed to consider whether it was "unreasonable" and even "reckless" that data was left unencrypted and whether Sony had duties to disclose to employees the breach without unreasonable delay.
Now that the hackers have gotten hold of sensitive information, the damage is said in the lawsuit to be severe. For example, the complaint says that "social security numbers are virtually impossible to change, so Plaintiffs and Class Members will be at risk of identity theft for the rest of their lives."
The causes of action alleged in the latest lawsuit is violations of California's Data Breach Act, a constitutional invasion of privacy, negligence and a violation of California's Confidentiality of Medical Information Act. The plaintiffs seek unspecified monetary damages, plus injunctive and equitable relief including forcing Sony to provide credit monitoring services.