The federal appeals court in Atlanta has upheld an extraordinary ruling in favor of Eagle Hospital Physicians in its bitter dispute with a consultant who accessed Eagle’s confidential e-mails.
The ruling Thursday by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals means Steven R. Gerst and his companies, SRG Consulting and Hospitalist Physicians, must pay Eagle $559,334 in legal fees and $44,000 in damages. Eagle provides doctors who care for patients in hospitals across the South.
In 1999, Eagle entered into a marketing agreement with SRG, which would get commissions for contracts it got for Eagle. In 2002, their relationship soured over the Web site SRG maintained on Eagle’s behalf. When Eagle started its own site, SRG registered 150 domain names containing versions of Eagle’s names and trademarks.
Eagle filed suit under the anti-cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. During the litigation, Eagle discovered Gerst accessed its e-mails with its lawyers.
When asked under oath how he did his electronic eavesdropping, Gerst invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.