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Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania
January 15, 2021, Submitted; May 12, 2021, Decided; May 12, 2021, Filed
No. 743 C.D. 2020
OPINION BY JUDGE FIZZANO CANNON
Dana Young (Young), pro se, appeals from the July 2, 2020 order of the Court of Common Pleas of Schuylkill County (trial court) sustaining preliminary objections filed by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (Department) and its Secretary, John Wetzel (Wetzel) (collectively, Appellees), and dismissing Young's complaint with prejudice. Upon review, we affirm.
Young is an individual incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Mahanoy. Original Record (O.R.), Complaint at 1, ¶ 1. In July 2018, the Department sent Young notice of an April 2018 data breach that may have compromised the security of his personal information, including his full name, driver's license number, home address, social security number and medical records. O.R., Complaint [*2] at 2, ¶ 4. The July 2018 notice identified Accreditation, Audit & Risk Management Security, LLC (AARMS), a vendor providing an online system utilized by the Department to conduct, manage and track audits and inspections related to accreditation and internal operations, as the target of the data breach. O.R., Complaint at 2, ¶ 6. Also in July 2018, Young's counselor1 requested the enrollment code from the notice and subsequently called a representative of the Department regarding identity protection for Young. O.R., Complaint at 2, ¶ 7. In August 2018, Young received confirmation of enrollment in MYIDcare identity protection. O.R., Complaint at 2, ¶ 8.
In April 2020, Young filed a complaint against Appellees in the trial court, alleging negligence by the Department in using AARMS as a vendor.2 O.R., Complaint at 2, ¶ 9. Young contended that the Department bore a duty to protect his personal and financial information, as such information constituted property in its care, custody and control; that the Department breached this duty by negligently and carelessly permitting AARMS to provide the online system utilized by the Department to conduct, manage and track audits and inspections related [*3] to its accreditation and internal operations; that the Department received actual knowledge and notice from AARMS of the data breach; and that the data breach has placed Young at increased and imminent risk of falling victim to the crimes of identity theft and fraud. O.R., Complaint at 3-4, ¶¶ 18-21. Young also asserted that the Department failed to safeguard his information and to prevent vulnerabilities in its computer systems—specifically, that the Department failed to properly encrypt data, establish adequate firewalls and implement adequate authentication protocols for the protection of information in its computer network. O.R., Complaint at 3, ¶¶ 11-12. Further, Young maintained that the criminal acts of a third party did not relieve the Department of its duty of care to protect his personal and financial information. O.R., Complaint at 3, ¶ 14. Young also contended that the Department's utilization of AARMS' services constituted breach of implied contract. O.R., Complaint at 2, ¶ 9.3 Young averred that he utilized the inmate grievance system to attempt to resolve his complaint, resulting in a "final review" dated October 1, 2018. O.R., Complaint at 3, ¶ 15. Young sought damages [*4] in excess of $35,000 as well as litigation costs, exemplary damages to the extent permitted by law and such other relief as the trial court may deem just and proper. O.R., Complaint at 4.
In May 2020, Appellees filed preliminary objections to Young's complaint and requested dismissal thereof with prejudice. O.R., Preliminary Objections at 1 & 9 (citing Pa.R.C.P. No. 1028(a)(4)).4 Appellees contended that Young's claim of negligence is barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. O.R., Preliminary Objections at 1 & 3-5, ¶¶ 14-24. Appellees also asserted that Young failed to state a claim of breach of implied contract for failure to allege facts that would establish the existence of any contract between Young and the Department. O.R., Preliminary Objections at 5, ¶ 26. Further, Appellees maintained that, assuming arguendo Young established the existence of a contract between himself and the Department, such a contract would fall under the purview of the Board of Claims, which retains exclusive jurisdiction over contractual disputes between individuals and Commonwealth agencies pursuant to the Commonwealth Procurement Code, 62 Pa.C.S. §§ 101-2311. O.R., Preliminary Objections at 7, ¶¶ 33-35. Appellees also objected to Young's [*5] complaint on the basis of lack of standing, contending that Young's assertions that his personal information may have been compromised and that the data breach could render him susceptible to potential identity theft and fraud fail to establish actual harm. O.R., Preliminary Objections at 7-8, ¶¶ 36-45.5
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2021 Pa. Commw. LEXIS 509 *
Dana Young, Appellant v. John Wetzel and Department of Corrections
Subsequent History: [*1] Publication Ordered July 8, 2021.
Prior History: Appealed from No. S-588-2020. Common Pleas Court of the County of Schuylkill. Goodman, J.
preliminary objection, sovereign immunity, damages, trial court, negligence claim, cause of action, breach of implied contract, financial information, personal information, custody, vendor, identity theft, notice
Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, Evidence, Inferences & Presumptions, Inferences, Justiciability, Standing, Personal Stake, Injury in Fact, Governments, State & Territorial Governments, Claims By & Against, Torts, Public Entity Liability, Immunities, Sovereign Immunity, Negligence, Elements, Breach of Duty, Vicarious Liability, Independent Contractors, Collateral Negligence, Peculiar Risk Doctrine, Business Torts, Negligent Hiring, Retention & Supervision, Elements, Business & Corporate Compliance, Breach, Breach of Contract Actions, Elements of Contract Claims, Pleadings, Complaints, Requirements for Complaint