Representatives with the City of Philadelphia and Mayor Michael Nutter's office have
agreed to the terms of a proposed settlement that will pay out more than $1 million to more than 3,000 plaintiffs in a class claiming their personal information was wrongfully posted online on a public website.
According to the plaintiff's attorneys, the agreement comes after more than a year-and-a-half of litigation and two days of mediation with former U.S. Magistrate Judge Diane Welsh.
Under the proposed settlement, the City will pay $1.425 million to the class and will be separately responsible for the costs of administering the settlement. Once the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas approves the settlement, class members will receive a check without having to submit a claim form.
The original complaint says that the class action was filed shortly after it came to light that the personal information of citizens who appealed denials of gun licenses was posted on a new web application created and launched by the city and its Gun Permit Unit, a violation of the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act.
According to the claim, the application was launched on Aug. 11, 2012, and featured the plaintiffs' names, addresses and grounds for appealing the denial of a License to Carry Firearms application.
The relevant text of the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act regarding confidentiality reads: "All information provided by the potential purchaser, transferee or applicant, including, but not limited to, the potential purchaser, transferee or applicant's name or identity, furnished by a potential purchaser or transferee under this section or any applicant for a license to carry a firearm...shall be confidential and not subject to public disclosure."
The plaintiff class comprised of 3,265 members who appealed to the city the revocation or denial of their license to carry, with a subgroup of 2,188 members whose information was published online.
Under the proposed settlement, the approximately 2,188 individuals will receive more than the other approximately 1,077 members of the class. The city maintained that the information on the website was not confidential and was not exposed to the public in violation of Pennsylvania law, and the city does not admit liability to the plaintiffs as part of the settlement.
In addition, the city will voluntarily implement substantial changes in certain policies and procedures, which will positively affect firearm owners who have legally obtained a firearm, and those who choose to carry a firearm for self defense and other lawful purposes.
Such policy changes will include ensuring that confidential applicant information will not be disclosed by the city electronically or in-person, not requiring or contacting references for any applicant, processing applications within 45 calendar days, refunding $15 of the application fee to any applicant who is denied, and not confiscating a firearm or license to carry unless an officer has probable cause to believe it is evidence of a crime.
The plaintiffs were represented by Joshua Prince of Prince Law Offices, Benjamin R. Picker of McCausland Keen & Buckman, Jonathan Goldstein of McNelly & Goldstein, LLC and Jon Mirowitz.