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Lawsuit claims workers comp insurers hacked into injured workers' files

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A California worker claims in a federal lawsuit that three of the largest workers compensation insurance companies in California illegally hacked over 32,000 confidential workers comp files.

A lawsuit, which seeks class action status, was filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles against Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway Homestate, San Francisco-based Cypress Insurance, Woodland Hills, California-based Zenith Insurance, Palmdale, California-based HQSU Sign Up Services Inc. and two California private investigators hired by the insurers. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from the alleged breach of personal information found in workers comp files.

The lawsuit is based on the case of Adela Gonzalez, who was a client of Los Angeles-based Reyes & Barsoum L.L.P. a workers comp law firm that she hired to represent her workers comp suit. She claims her personal information was stolen from her lawyer's databases by private investigators hired by the insurers, who are accused of illegally accessing servers that had her Social Security number, birth date, home address, medical information and other confidential information, according to court documents.

Investigators William Reynolds, hired by Berkshire Hathaway and Oliver Glover, hired by Zenith Insurance, are alleged to have hacked into attorney-client workers comp files to steal personal information about injured workers, court records say.

The hacking occurred over several years and was apparently directed by the insurers in order to get to thousands of attorney-client privileged documents of claimants and their attorneys so the insurers could gain an advantage in litigation and save money in judgments and settlements, the lawsuit alleges.

Mr. Reynolds has admitted to the California Workers' Compensation Appeals Board to downloading over 33,000 workers comp files, the complaint reads. Mr. Glover also admitted to downloading workers comp files in a sworn deposition in a Los Angeles Superior Court case in 2015, according to court filings.

The unlawful computer hacking was first learned of in April 2014, when a separate law firm had a workers comp attorney-privileged intake packet in their possession during an in-chambers workers comp hearing with California workers comp Judge Paige Levy, the complaint says.

The judge asked the lawyer of Oakland, California-based law firm Knox Ricksen L.L.P. where he had obtained the file. The lawyer said from the HQSU website, where personal client data was stored and maintained, the Gonzalez complaint says.

A similar workers comp hacking lawsuit was previously filed June 2015 in Los Angeles federal court: Hector Casillas v. Berkshire Hathaway Homestate Companies et al., is still pending.