Humiliation Is Not “Damages” Under the Privacy Act of 1974

In privacy litigation, the majority of the federal courts have required demonstration of a certain tangible, provable harm before granting damage awards to plaintiffs claiming a violation of their privacy.  The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Federal Aviation Administration et al. v. Stanmore Cawthon Cooper,  agreed with the majority.  In the Court’s March 28, 2012  decision (5-3), the Court held that mental and emotional distress are not actual damages under the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. §552, limiting the recovery plaintiffs can obtain under the statute to “actual damages” of pecuniary harm.

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