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Supreme Court Grapples with “Harm” in Pilot Case

PRIVACY LAW—U.S.

December 1, 2011

CNN reports on the Supreme Court case involving a pilot who filed a lawsuit against federal agencies for disclosing his medical records during a fraud investigation. In FAA v. Cooper, Stanmore Cooper claims mental and emotional distress over government agencies' data-sharing practices. Justices grappled Wednesday with whether Cooper's claims of harm are covered under the Privacy Act. The Justice Department argued that though Cooper may have suffered "an adverse effect," he didn't necessarily suffer "actual damages" under the Privacy Act. But one justice said Congress likely intended the act to allow for emotional distress suits, since that is the kind of harm most characteristic of privacy violations. A ruling is expected in the spring.
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