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Andersen Consulting LLP v. UOP, 991 F. Supp. 1041 (N.D. Ill. 1998) (full-text).
Factual Background Edit
UOP hired Andersen to perform certain system integration work. During the project, Andersen's employees used UOP's internal e-mail system to communicate with each other, UOP employees and third parties. UOP terminated the project and sued for breach of contract, negligence and fraud. Andersen sued UOP and its lawyers for fraud. Before trial, UOP and its lawyers disclosed the e-mail messages to the Wall Street Journal. The Journal then published an article on June 19, 1997 titled “E-mail Trail Could Haunt Consultants in Court.”
The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (“ECPA”) states that “a person or entity providing an electronic communicating service to the public shall not knowingly divulge to any person or entity the contents of its communication while in electronic storage by that service.”
Trial Court Proceedings Edit
The court was faced with the applicability of the ECPA to the interception and disclosure of e-mail messages sent over the defendant's internal e-mail system. The court had to consider whether such a system “provid[e] an electronic communications services to the public.” The court held that the ECPA does not apply to an internal e-mail system.