Printed from

Lawsuit over firm’s perusal of former worker’s personal emails reinstated

Posted On: Feb. 10, 2023 1:41 PM CST


A federal appeals court on Thursday reinstated litigation filed against an emergency physician practice by a former worker who charged the company with violating federal law for perusing her personal emails.

Amanda Carson, a physician’s assistant, worked at Greenville, South Carolina-based EmergencyMD LLC as an independent contractor from February 2014 until May 2017, according to the ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, in Amanda Carson v. EmergencyMD LLC et. al.

In accepting the position, she agreed to be bound by company policies, including its electronic communications policy, the ruling said.

Ms. Carson had the opportunity to use work email while at EmergencyMD but elected, with the company’s approval, to use her personal Gmail account for work duties, the ruling said. She used a shared desktop computer to access her Gmail account while at work, it said.

After her employment was terminated, Ms. Carson went to work for her ex-husband’s company.  Litigation ensued between the two companies over unfair competition and misappropriation of trade secrets claims.

During this litigation, EmergencyMD published emails it obtained from Ms. Carson’s Gmail account, some of which were dated after she was terminated.

There were conflicting reports as to the circumstances under which the emails were accessed, but reportedly Ms. Carson’s Gmail account had been left open in the shared work computer.

Ms. Carson sued EmergencyMD in U.S. District Court in Greenville, charging violation of the Stored Communications Act, which protects the privacy of electronic communications.

The district court granted the company summary judgment dismissing the case and was overturned by a three-judge appeals court panel.

 “We see nothing in the Policy that suggests an employee’s use of the company’s shared computer to access her Gmail account for work purposes authorizes EmergencyMD to access and use emails created on a private Gmail account after the employee has been terminated,” the panel said, in vacating the summary judgment and remanding the case for further proceedings.

Attorneys in the case did not respond to requests for comment.