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Ryanair says it’s not ‘hiding’ behind GDPR in US lawsuit

Ryanair has been accused of trying to hide behind EU data protection rules which, it has been claimed, would prevent it from having to disclose “vital information” in a US class action lawsuit linked to a pilot-rostering debacle at the airline in 2017.

The carrier has strenuously denied the allegation.

An Alabama pension fund for fire officers and police officers sued Ryanair and group chief executive Michael O’Leary in 2018, claiming they had made false and misleading statements to shareholders regarding employment issues at the airline.

The pension fund also alleged that increased costs as a result of unionisation at the carrier, coupled with lower profits, wiped out “millions” in shareholder value. Ryanair and Mr O’Leary reject the claims.

In June, they failed to have the case dismissed, but the presiding judge said that many of the complaints made against the defendants don’t have any actionable basis.

The parties in the case have been attempting to thrash out a mutually acceptable protective order that would be applied to sensitive information during the case.

Lawyers for the pension fund claimed that the defendants have insisted that any such order would permit the party producing documents to redact any information defined as “foreign personal data”, even if such information would normally be discoverable under US rules.

“Defendants claim that the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation requires that employee names and other professional contact information be redacted from discovery material to protect the privacy interests of its EU citizens,” the lawyers for the pension fund have told the New York court.

“However, adopting such an approach would allow defendants to unilaterally withhold vital information from lead plaintiffs,” they argued. “Indeed, defendants have been unwilling to confirm that they will not redact even basic, but critical, information related to lead plaintiffs’ claims, including names, email addresses, and job titles, from communications they produce.”

But lawyers for Ryanair and Mr O’Leary have accused the plaintiff of seeking a “categorical ruling” from the court that the defendants should not be given any opportunity to comply with applicable foreign data privacy laws.

“In support of these sweeping and premature arguments, plaintiffs regularly misstate the parties’ negotiations, defendants’ positions, and the discovery practice concerning foreign data privacy laws in this (New York court) District,” they claimed.

They told the court that the defendants have not sought a protective order that would enable them to redact any information from documents that would be defined as foreign personal data.

“Nor have defendants taken the position that ’employee names and other professional contact information be redacted from discovery material’, as plaintiffs contend,” the airline’s lawyers insisted.

The defendants’ lawyers said they now expect that information such as names and titles will be disclosed in documents, except in “narrow circumstances” where such data is not necessary or relevant to the litigation.


This article originally appeared in the Irish Independent.

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