There have been some recent ransomware attacks against communities (cities), especially in Florida, as reported e.g. by threatpost, and others. The malware has often lead to serious damages and/or temporal inabilities for the attacked communities, and some of them actually paid the ransom.

Now, usually, the attack vector is some employee clicking on a link in a specially crafted email.

Question: could a victim community and/or the unfortunate employee be sued for collaboration with the criminal attackers? Because, without clicking the link, the attack would not have been possible.

Motivation: As a (potential) taxpayer, I would not like to have my taxes spent to criminals.

Answers could be specific for Florida, if necessary, or the US in general.

  • So, what you are asking is if it is a crime to be a victim of a crime? – Robert Columbia Jul 28 '19 at 22:03
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    @RobertColumbia No, I am asking whether it is a crime, to help attackers carry out their attack by "letting them in" by mistake, then paying them off to "undo" their attack, so actually using tax money to support criminal activites – hitchhiker Jul 28 '19 at 22:06
  • @hitchhiker Your question asks about suing the government, but your comment asks whether a crime has been committed. Whether or not a crime was committed might be too broad since something like willful or gross negligence is highly dependent on the exact facts, but you could try asking a new question. – IllusiveBrian Jul 29 '19 at 1:03
  • Related law.stackexchange.com/questions/43257/… – Dale M Jul 29 '19 at 3:20

The Supreme Court originally ruled in Massachusetts v Mellon and has held in United States v. Richardson that there is no general doctrine of "taxpayer standing." The majority opinion in United States v. Richardson states

The acceptance of new categories of judicially cognizable injury has not eliminated the basic principle that, to invoke judicial power, the claimant must have a "personal stake in the outcome, "in short, something more than "generalized grievances"...

In the Court's view, the collection and use of taxes is a political issue and not a judicial one except if it causes cognizable harm to the plaintiff (note that "cognizable" is not just "actual," it must also be something that exceeds the Constitutional authority of the government body in question, per Flast v. Cohen, although just being a taxpayer is enough to have standing if the expenditure is unconstitutional), in most cases the "harm" the plaintiff suffers by their tax money being spent in a disagreeable way is too far removed from them personally to be a cognizable harm. I'll note that the cases I've cited are suits against the Federal Government, but there's no reason they wouldn't apply equally to a suit against a state government unless there was a particular state law that gave more latitude to taxpayer standing, which I haven't been able to find for Florida.

Ultimately, what this means is that the Court's opinion is that in almost all cases, taxpayers need to have their grievances with tax expenditures resolved by their elected officials, not the court system. At this point we could talk about Sovereign and Qualified Immunity for the government body and official respectively, and whether or not the downloading of the malware would be negligence and allow a suit under Title XLV 768.28, which waives Sovereign Immunity for the Florida Government for torts related to (among other things) loss of property, but it would ultimately be fruitless since simply being a taxpayer is not enough to have standing for injury if the government uses the taxes in a way the plaintiff disagrees with.

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