According to a March 18th ruling by the Fourth Circuit, plaintiffs must prove actual damages in order to be eligible for an award of statutory damages under the federal Stored Communications Act, but that a showing of actual damages is not required for awards of punitive damages or attorney fees. Plaintiff had sued under the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C.A. § 2707(a), alleging that her former employer and its president illegally accessed her personal email account for over a year. Van Alstyne v. Electronic Scriptorium Ltd., No. 07-1892.

Further reading: Marcia Coyle, E-Mail Theft Case Sparks First-of-a-Kind Ruling,, March 27, 2009.