Case Number: No. 2:17-cv-03864

Practice Area: Technology, Privacy & Data Breach

Case Status: Settled

Settlement Amount: $17.1 million

Court: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Berger Montague served as co-lead counsel and obtained a $17.1 million settlement in this lawsuit in which the plaintiffs alleged that Aetna violated the privacy rights of thousands of its customers by exposing their private and confidential information regarding prescriptions for HIV medication. The case was litigated in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and captioned Beckett, et al. v. Aetna, Inc., et al., No. 2:17-cv-03864 (E.D. Pa.). The plaintiffs in the case remained anonymous throughout the case under the use of fictitious names. The lead plaintiff in the first-filed action utilized the pseudonym of Andrew Beckett, the name of the fictional lawyer with HIV portrayed by Tom Hanks in the famous 1993 movie “Philadelphia.”

On August 28, 2017, Berger Montague, working with the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania and the Legal Action Center, filed a class action lawsuit against Aetna in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the federal court in Philadelphia. The lawsuit alleged that Aetna sent a notice regarding HIV medication with a large-window envelope, exposing the highly confidential information for about 12,000 Aetna customers in 24 states. Information regarding the recipient’s HIV medication was visible through the large transparent window of the Aetna envelope, revealing the private and personal information to family, roommates, friends, neighbors, landlords, mail carriers, and even complete strangers.

The plaintiffs alleged that Aetna’s actions violated federal and state privacy laws, and that Aetna exposed people living with HIV to potential discrimination. The plaintiffs’ lawsuit demanded that Aetna cease the practice, reform its mailing procedures, and pay money damages, including punitive damages, to the plaintiffs and class members.

With input by Berger Montague and its co-counsel, Aetna soon announced that it was offering emergency relief for individuals harmed by the mailing. The emergency relief program offered cash reimbursements to individuals who incurred financial hardship as a result of the privacy breach as well as free counseling services to individuals and their family members who requested it. Aetna’s announcement about the emergency program is available here.

On January 17, 2018, only five months after the privacy breach occurred, Shanon J. Carson, E. Michelle Drake, and John Albanese of Berger Montague obtained a $17.1 million settlement in the class action, plus significant changes to Aetna’s policies and practices. The Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted final approval to the settlement later that year.

If you have been harmed by a privacy breach or a data breach, or been the victim of consumer fraud or unfair or deceptive business practices, please contact Berger Montague.

About Berger Montague

Berger Montague is a national law firm focusing on complex civil litigation in federal and state courts throughout the United States. For over half a century, Berger Montague has played lead roles in consequential, precedent-setting cases and has recovered over $50 billion for its clients and the classes they have represented. Berger Montague is headquartered in Philadelphia and has offices in Chicago, Minneapolis, San Diego, San Francisco, Toronto, and Washington, D.C.

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