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Technology Sourcing, Inc. v. Curtis Griffin

April 30, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys United States District Court

Magistrate Judge Keys


Plaintiff, Technology Sourcing, Inc. ("TSI" or "Plaintiff") has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment opining that there is no genuine issue of material fact that Defendant, Curtis Griffin ("Mr. Griffin"), violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act ("CFAA" or "Act") and breached the Employee Non-Disclosure and Non-Solicitation Agreement entered into with Plaintiff. Defendant has filed a cross motion for summary judgment, contending that Plaintiff fails to meet the threshold $5,000 amount of requisite damages, and that issues of fact exist as to whether TSI has proved any breach by Mr. Griffin. For the reasons set forth below, TSI's motion for summary judgment is denied, and Mr. Griffin's motion for summary judgment is granted, as it pertains to the federal claims.

Procedural Background

On August 8, 2010, TSI filed a four-count complaint against Mr. Griffin, the first two counts alleging violations of the CFAA, 18 U.S.C. §1030, regarding unauthorized access and theft of computer data. Counts III and IV are state law claims with pendent jurisdiction. Mr. Griffin's motion for summary judgment is directed to Counts I and II, which are TSI's basis for jurisdiction in this court. In Count I, Plaintiff alleges that Mr. Griffin, a former employee of the Plaintiff, "intentionally accessed a protected computer without authorization, and as a result of such conduct caused damages." Complaint, ¶18. In Count II, Plaintiff alleges that Mr. Griffin impermissibly manipulated the computer network system, causing the system to malfunction and not operate, and causing Plaintiff damages "substantially in excess of $5,000". Complaint, Ex. A.

On October 10, 2010, Mr. Griffin denied the allegations in his filed answer, and on February 24, 2011, he filed a motion to dismiss asserting that TSI failed to meet the requisite $5,000 threshold amount of damages under the CFAA. In August 2011, the Court denied Mr. Griffin's motion to dismiss, finding that TSI's propounded evidence, taken as true for the purposes of the motion, fell within the definition of loss under the CFAA and could plausibly meet or exceed the threshold amount of $5,000.

Thereafter, TSI issued written discovery and the parties conducted oral discovery. On November 28, 2012, the Court granted Mr. Griffin's motion to strike Louis Degradi's, the president and sole proprietor of TSI, affidavit in its entirety upon finding:

the transcript of that deposition reveals that Mr. Degradi did not know or was noncommital when repeatedly asked questions clearly designed to ascertain an estimate of his damages. Then, on 9/14/2012, six months after the close of discovery and the date on which Plaintiffs response to Defendant's motion for summary judgment was due, Mr. Degradi executed an affidavit in which he estimated that he had spent approximately 37.5 hours performing certain tasks such as contacting and working with approximately 25 unspecified clients in an effort to undo the damage caused by Defendant's alleged acts, for which $250.00 per hour is his standard rate and which amounts to $9,375.00. Based on Mr. Degradi's noncommital answers regarding this important issue in his deposition, the Court will not consider his affidavit, which is inconsistent with his depositional testimony, to create an issue of fact to defeat summary judgment. Minute Entry of November 28, 2012 Status Hearing [55] Now, before the Court are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment.

Factual Background

TSI sued a former employee, Curtis Griffin, alleging violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as state law claims for tortious interference and breach of contract. Mr. Griffin worked for TSI for about three years, providing IT consulting services as the primary technician to TSI's clients, including Deutsch Levy & Engel, a Chicago law firm. TSI fired Griffin on June 10, 2010. In its Complaint, TSI alleges that, on Friday, July 24, 2010 -- after he was fired -- Griffin accessed Deutsch Levy's computer network, using passcodes obtained by virtue of his former employment with TSI, and manipulated data, causing the network to crash. Complaint, ¶¶19, 21. On Monday, July 26, 2010, TSI was informed that Deutsch Levy's password protected Citrix server and network was inoperative and had been inoperative over the weekend, and all users were prevented from accessing the firm's network. That day, TSI dispatched a network engineer to investigate and resolve the issues related to the Citrix server.

TSI successfully rebooted the server, restoring the network and fixing the damage, at no cost to Deutsch Levy, using TSI's in-house technicians. However, in addition to rebooting the server and ensuring the corresponding devices were operational, TSI's network engineer also searched the server's event log files in an effort to understand the shutdown. Ex. E, ¶13. TSI alleges that the event log uncovered by the engineer on July 26, 2010, provided that the last session on the log was created by an unauthorized user with the printer name "Cogold1_HP Laser Jet 4 Plus/COG-Tosh1" who logged into the Citrix server two times on July 24, 2010, causing the event log service to stop, and effectively shutting down the Citrix sever. Ex. E., ¶25. TSI alleges that the printer name associated with the last unauthorized user belongs to Mr. Griffin. Ex. E., ¶¶30 and 31. Through this lawsuit, TSI seeks to recover from Mr. Griffin the costs it incurred through investigating, repairing, and missed opportunity costs by diverting its resources to the matter.

Legal Standard

A. Standard of Review for Motions for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is proper when the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issues of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. civ. P. 56(c);Celotex Corp. v. Cartrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S. Ct. 2584 (1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating there is no genuine issue of material fact. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A genuine issue of material fact exists if the "evidence is such that ...

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