NY Times : Justices Rule Against Pilot In Privacy CaseSubmitted by emalvini on Wed, 03/28/2012 - 14:57
NY Times : Justices Rule Against Pilot In Privacy Case
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that a private pilot whose H.I.V.-positive status was improperly shared between government agencies cannot collect damages for the emotional distress he suffered when he was punished for hiding his medical condition from the Federal Aviation Administration.
In a case that pitted competing interests of public safety, personal privacy, and the broad immunity of the government from liability lawsuits, the court’s more conservative majority found that Congress had not allowed compensation for mental anguish when violations of the Privacy Act of 1974 inflicted no actual damage, like a loss of income.
During argument of the case in November, lawyers for the government had said that to allow the kind of compensation that the pilot, Stanmore C. Cooper, was seeking would expose the government to a much broader array of claims than Congress ever intended. Mr. Cooper’s side, on the other hand, argued that to limit the claims would also have broad repercussions, for example making it easy for the government to silence whistleblowers by subjecting them to embarrassing disclosures.