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Jon and Kate Plus Lawsuit: Hacking, ID Theft Alleged

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By Betty Wang, JD on September 06, 2013 9:44 AM

In the latest legal spat between TV's Jon and Kate, Kate Gosselin is suing her ex-husband Jon and his business partner, Robert Hoffman, reports US Magazine. Kate is alleging that Hoffman and Jon illegally got their hands on private information in order to publish a libelous book titled "Kate Gosselin: How She Fooled The World."

Kate claims that Jon had logged into her email account, which is password protected, gone through her cell phone, and even accessed her online banking records -- all without her consent. She also claims that he stole a hard drive that contained confidential information and that Hoffman had publicly bragged about being in possession of Kate's personal documents.

What type of legal retribution could Kate visit on these two alleged data thieves?

Identity Theft Minus 8

Identity theft generally refers to any type of crime where someone wrongfully obtains personal identifying information (PII) of another and then uses it in some way that involves fraud or deception, usually for economic gain. Laws defining identity theft vary by state. The state of Pennsylvania finds one guilty of identity theft when a person possesses or uses, through any means, PII of another person, without consent, to further any unlawful purpose.

If the facts alleged are true, then Jon acquired Kate's identifying information by going through her emails, phone, and bank accounts, and he then used it for an unlawful purpose, to publish a defamatory book. These allegations may all add up to a criminal charge for ID theft.

Defamation

Defamation generally refers to any published, non-privileged statement that harms someone's reputation. The requirements for a defamation lawsuit vary by state, but the common law elements of defamation are typically present. Pennsylvania defamation law requires that the plaintiff prove that the statement:

  • Was defamatory
  • Was published by the defendant
  • Applied to the plaintiff
  • Was received one who understood it to be defamatory and applied to the plaintiff, and
  • Caused harm

What this means is that Kate would have to prove that the book contained information that would damage her reputation, that it was communicated by or came from Jon, that anyone reading or coming across the content of the book would know that the information was about Kate, and that the information was defamatory. Harm or injury in defamation cases typically includes economic events like losing out on job opportunities or being fired.

Jon may have a good defense to these claims if the information in his book is truthful, as truth is typically a perfect defense to defamation actions.

According to Kate, however, Amazon.com has already pulled Hoffman's book, partly because it was based on false information.

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