No harm, no foul doesn't apply to class action against Productivity Center Inc. alleging 'potential injury'

David Yates Dec. 17, 2007, 2:11pm

Richard Coffman

The Productivity Center Inc., a law enforcement database company, made headlines in May after intruders burglarized PCI's Houston office and stole a laptop containing the names and social security numbers of more than 229,000 peace officers.

After the May 9 robbery, PCI informed its client police agencies of the incident and changed all user passwords. Eight months later, not one identity has been reported stolen, but that hasn't stopped Randy Stevens and his attorneys from filing a class-action lawsuit against PCI, alleging the company's "wrongful conduct" increased his risk of identity theft.

In his suit, filed with the Jefferson County District Court on Dec. 13, Stevens says PCI recommended he and the other officers monitor their credit reports. "But despite the Fact PCI…was responsible for putting Stevens and class members in harm's way, none of the defendants has offered to pay for credit monitoring services and credit insurance."

However, PCI President Clare Keimig told the Record in a telephone interview that no one has ever asked the company to provide such services, nor, to her knowledge, has there been one case of identity theft stemming from the May 9 incident.

"You think they (Stevens and his attorneys) would have made a phone call before filing a lawsuit," Keimig said, adding that five other businesses were also burglarized in the office building the night of the robbery. "It's not our (PCI's) fault we were broken into."

In addition to PCI, Stevens' suit also names 10 John Does as defendants – the unknown thieves who stole the laptop. "As soon as (the John Does') identities are ascertained, Stevens intends to file an amended petition."

"As a result of the (PCI) breach, the plaintiff and class members face significantly increased risk that their personal information and identities will be fraudulently misused; and they will suffer damages and other harm as a result, all through no fault of their own," the suit said. "Equally important, they have been robbed of the value of their sensitive personal information."

To bolster their allegations and case for possible injury, Stevens and his attorneys cite a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals case, U. S. vs. Williams, in which justices say, "criminals use (stolen) information to establish credit in their name, run up debts on another person's account, or take over existing financial accounts."

The suit continues by stating that a "data security breach, such as the PCI breach, significantly raises the possibility that a person's identity will be misused by criminals."

"According to a survey by Harris Interactive, nearly 20 percent of all persons whose personal information had been reported stolen, lost or improperly disclosed experienced unauthorized credit card use, bank account issues, or other issues during the three year period preceding the survey. The potential harms from an identity theft can be serious and long-term."


According to PCI's Web site, the company provides "leading-edge solutions for a more efficient and productive national law enforcement community" and claims to have more than 700 law enforcement agencies throughout Texas using its software products.

Pursuant to a long-term contract with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education, PCI designed and maintains the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Data Distribution System (TCLEDDS) for the exclusive use of Texas law enforcement agencies, academies and officers.

TCLEDDS is a custom, Web-based software application that links Texas law enforcement agencies, academies and individual officers, via the Internet, to the commission.

In his suit, Stevens maintains that a victim of identity theft will not discover that his or her personal confidential information has been stolen and misused until long after the theft has taken place, "and then only when they are denied credit or discover that their bank account has been emptied."

"PCI' s failure to adequately protect the sensitive personal information exposed Stevens and the class to substantially greater risk of identity theft," the suit said.

"While the exact number and identities of the class members are unknown at this time, and can only be ascertained through appropriate discovery of PCl's records…the Class consists of over 229,000 licensed peace officers, jailers and telecommunicators geographically dispersed throughout Texas. The class, therefore, is so numerous that joinder of all class members is impracticable."

By not safeguarding his information, Stevens alleges PCI is guilty of violating the Texas Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act, breached its fiduciary duty, committed act of gross negligence and breached its contract.

The suit does not say what law enforcement agency Stevens works for, but does says he is a Jefferson County resident.

He and any future class members are suing for actual and consequential damages, interest and attorneys' fees.

Stevens is demanding a trial by jury and is represented by attorney Richard Coffman of The Coffman Law Firm and attorney John Wylie of the Chicago law firm Futterman Howard Watkins Wylie & Ashley.

Judge Gary Sanderson, 60th Judicial District, has been assigned to the case.

Case No. B180-899

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