If a private investigator or information broker's disclosure of information to a client creates a foreseeable risk of criminal misconduct against the third person whose information is disclosed, the investigator owes a duty to exercise reasonable care not to subject the third person to an unreasonable risk of harm. In determining whether the risk of criminal misconduct is foreseeable to an investigator, courts can examine two risks of information disclosure implicated: stalking and identity theft. Stalkers, in seeking to locate and track a victim, sometimes use an investigator to obtain personal information about the victims.
Defendant information broker disclosed to its client information about the decedent. The client used the information to find the decedent, whom he then shot and killed. Plaintiff, executrix of decedent's estate, sued defendant for damages. Pursuant to N.H. Sup. Ct. R. 34, the district court certified questions of law to define duties of brokers to persons such as the decedent. The state supreme court answered the questions and remanded the case.
Did defendant information broker, who sold information to a client pertaining to a third party, have a cognizable legal duty to that third party with respect to the sale of the information?
The threats posed by stalking and identity theft showed that the risk of criminal misconduct was sufficiently foreseeable so that an investigator had a duty to exercise reasonable care in disclosing a third person's personal information to a client. That duty applied especially when the investigator did not know the client or the client's purpose in seeking the information. Accordingly, defendant information broker who sold information to a client pertaining to the decedent had a cognizable legal duty to the decedent with respect to the sale of the information.