Thursday, 26 December 2013 22:19

Georgia Supreme Court Rules for Bank in Identity Theft Case

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Stephen Kale Jenkins sued Wells Fargo in Gwinnett County State Court in Georgia, after his identity was stolen by the husband of one of the bank's tellers. Jenkins won in the Georgia Court of Appeals, but the state's Supreme Court reversed that decision. According to court documents, Justice P. Harris Hines, who wrote the unanimous decision, stated that the Appeals Court "misread an inspirational statement of Congressional policy...as establishing a legal duty, the alleged breach of which would give rise under the law of this State to a cause of action for negligence against financial institutions."

 

Jenkins sued Wells Fargo in 2009, claiming that the bank had not protected his personal information and had also invaded his privacy Jenkins had never been a customer of Wells Fargo, but he had held accounts with South Trust Bank and First Union Bank, both of which were acquired by Wachovia, which then became Wells Fargo.

When the banks merged, Wachovia stored Jenkins's personal data in its databases. One of Wachovia's tellers, Kandace Caniece Waters, admitted that she had looked into the customer database for bank customers who had the same surname name as her husband, Stephen Traymane Jenkins. He then used the information to obtain credit in the other individual's name. He ultimately charged approximately $600,000 in merchandise to the stolen identity.

Waters entered a guilty plea to theft by deception, and the trail court in the civil case ruled in favor of the bank as it could find no basis for filing a negligence suit because the only thing the bank had done was maintain a database.

Jenkins appealed this ruling, and the Appeals Court ruled that the facts in the case would support a negligence lawsuit. The Georgia Supreme Court then disagreed and reversed the appellate court's finding.

According to the opinion, the Supreme Court acknowledged that federal statute "expresses the goal that financial institutions respect the privacy, security, and confidentiality of customers." But the opinion goes on to state, that while this ".is a clear Congressional policy statement, it is just that. It does not provide for certain duties or the performance of or refraining from any specific acts on the part of financial institutions, nor does it articulate or imply a standard of conduct or care, ordinary or otherwise."

Resources

Gwinnet Daily Post

Jenkins v. Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo v. Jenkins

Jenkins v. Wells Fargo, Appellate Georgia Appeals Court

 

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