Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. lost a bid to dismiss a lawsuit by former employees whose personal data was stolen in what they called a “nightmare” computer hack linked to the release last year of “The Interview,” the spy-caper comedy set in North Korea.
A federal judge in Los Angeles Monday refused to throw out the allegation that Sony was negligent in not maintaining adequate security to stop hackers from getting into the company’s computer systems and releasing employee salaries, worker health data, racially tinged e-mail banter and other sensitive information.
U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner didn’t rule on the merits of the claim that Sony made a “business decision” not to spend money on beefing up its security system after prior data breaches. The judge said it doesn’t need to be proven true for the lawsuit to proceed at this stage.
The judge threw out some of the ex-employees’ other claims, including one for breach of contract.
U.S. officials have blamed North Korean hackers angered over the Seth Rogen movie for the attack, which became public in November. The breach exposed Hollywood secrets, destroyed company data and caused the movie studio to initially cancel the release of “The Interview,” which was about a fictional assassination of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un.
Sony Pictures said in a Dec. 8 letter to its employees, filed with the California Attorney General’s Office, that the hackers may have stolen Social Security, driver’s license and passport numbers, as well as credit-card, compensation and medical information, among other private data.
Robert Lawson, a spokesman for Sony Pictures, declined to comment on the ruling.
The case is Corona v. Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., 14-CV-09600, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).