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Washington State University Settles Data Breach Lawsuit for $4.7 Million

Washington State University will pay $4.7 million to settle a class-action lawsuit stemming from the theft of a hard drive containing the personal information of more than 1.2 million people.

The settlement was approved in the King County Superior Court on Thursday, in which university the agreed to pay cash reimbursements of up to $5,000, attorneys fees, administrative expenses and two years of credit monitoring and insurance services for the 1,193,190 people who were affected, according to a Seattle Times report.

“In the event the total amount of all claims for cash exceeds $3.25 million, the amount of each claim for cash shall be reduced pro rata,” the settlement reads.

The school has also agreed to delete all of the sensitive information of the people affected by the data theft.

Plaintiffs in the suit alleged the school of having poor data security practices, leading to the theft of the hard drive from Quality Self Storage in Olympia in April 2017. The hard drive contained social security numbers, addresses, contact information, career and health data, and college-admissions test scores collected over a 15-year period by the school’s Social and Economic Sciences Research Center.

Plaintiffs also claimed that the stolen data was used to commit various frauds. Meanwhile, the school has maintained that such incidents shouldn’t be tied to its breach.

In a statement to The Spokesman-Review, university spokesman Phil Weiler denied all of the allegations made in the suit, and said that the settlement was ultimately made to save time and money.

“While Washington State University disputes the claims made in the suit, the university has concluded that continued litigation would be even more expensive and time-consuming,” Weiler wrote in an emailed statement.

“As a result, WSU has entered into an agreement to provide plaintiffs with additional credit monitoring and insurance services, as well as pay for certainly lost time related to the theft and documented out-of-pocket costs,” he added.

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