Actions for Data breaches are something a novel cause of action in Irish Law. The possibility of bringing such an action has existed for many years, but the grounds from bringing such a case was quite restrictive. The GDPR changed this position, and this, along with massive proliferation in data collection has meant an inevitable growth in claims being brough when things go wrong.
In May 2021 it became known that a data breach had occurred on HSE IT systems. The scale of the breach was unclear at the start,but it has since become quickly eviden than the personal details of most service users of the HSE has been exfiltrated by “hackers”, and the entire Irish Heath System disrupted. It is almost unquestionably the biggest Ransomware or hacking event that has occurred in the World and is a truly exceptional event; the consequences of which we have not grasped as yet. The purpose of this document is to give people information about their legal rights following the attack on the HSE IT Systems.
On the 17th May 2021 we first published a short blog post on our website stating that people adversely affected by the hacking event may be entitled to claim compensation. This drew a strong reaction from the Minister for Health who accused law firms of “potentially licking their lips at the thought of being able to sue the State”, and that any effort to sue the state should be regarded as “distasteful”. Further discussions on various media outlets indicated as a high a level of ignorance of Data Protection law as that exhibited by the Minister.
This firm responded in an appropriate manner to the outrageous comments of the Minister, and we further note the Law Society of Ireland further called on the Minister to apologise to the profession as a whole. Such an apology has not been forthcoming at the time of writing. Despite the Ministers comments, (and a certain amount of hate directed towards us, which thankfully pales in comparison to the supportive comments received both publicly and privately), it is our view that as Solicitors with particular expertise in the area of Data Protection is it our duty to inform and assist members of the public in understanding the Law as it applies to this incident in as fair and impartial a manner as possible. This duty is thrown into sharper relief when it appears that neither the HSE nor Minister for Health appeared to be aware of the rights enjoyed by Data Subjects at the commencement of this debacle.
At this point we can say with certainty that a great many people have state able claims which can be made against the HSE for the events that occurred, and we are inviting people who are worried about the consequences of this data breach to contact us.