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Less than two weeks after filing what they believe are the first class actions against Sony Corp. over the PlayStation game network data breach, two plaintiffs’ law firms are seeking multidistrict litigation approval. The purported class actions follow Sony’s April 26 announcement that a breach of its video game online network compromised the confidential information of some 77 million users. The information includes names, addresses, e-mail addresses, user names and possibly credit card data. According to press reports and lawsuit filings, Sony learned of the breach several days before alerting its customers. The multidistrict petition was filed on May 9 in the Northern District of California in Johns v. Sony Computer Entertainment America LLC. The underlying case was filed on April 27. The MDL petition cites 18 cases: 10 in California’s Northern District, four in the Central District, one each in New York’s Eastern and Southern Districts, one in the Eastern District of Michigan and one in the Southern District of Texas. Ira Rothken of Novato, Calif.-based Rothken Law Firm said his firm and the other plaintiffs’ firm it is working with, Kershaw Cutter & Ratinoff in Sacramento, Calif., plan to ask for consolidation of new cases as soon as they learn of them. “We’re moving to consolidate the cases nationwide,” Rothken said. California “is the center of gravity for all of these cases,” said J.R. Parker, an attorney at Kershaw Cutter. Parker said the Sony entities that are responsible for the breach are in California. One newer case, a District of Massachusetts purported class action filed on May 5, Thomson v. Sony Computer Entertainments America Inc., isn’t part of the MDL petition. But Rothken said the firm plans to update the MDL panel as it learns of new cases. In the complaint in the Johns case, plaintiff Kristopher Johns of Birmingham, Ala., says he bought a Sony PlayStation3 console, the PlayStation network service and games around 2009. Around April 17 or 18 of this year, he noticed that he did not have PlayStation network access, but did not know that the service was shut down due to a breach until Sony’s April 26 announcement. Johns’ case lists several California-specific legal claims including violations of California’s business and professions code; breach of California’s Song Beverly Consumer Warranty Act — its “lemon law”; violation of California’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act; and violation of the California Civil Code concerning security requirements for customer records. The other allegations include breach of implied contract, breach of express contract and negligence. Johns has asked the court for “restitution and disgorgement of all amounts” obtained by Sony because of its misconduct, actual, compensatory, statutory and punitive damages and attorneys fees and costs. Specifically, Johns asked the court to order Sony to refund him and all class members money they paid for the PlayStations and PlayStation network services and to pay for credit card monitoring. Johns has also asked the court to enjoin Sony in several ways, including to bar it from “continuing to falsely market and advertise” PlayStation products and services and from acting to “conceal material information.” Rothken said he believes the cases against Sony are very strong compared with other recent privacy and data security cases. “Here we have actual harm to consumers,” Rothken said. The harm includes the plaintiffs’ and potential plaintiffs’ loss of access to the Sony PlayStation network, he said. Rothken also said there’s substantial evidence that third parties have been able to make Internet purchases with the password information and e-mail information gleaned from the data breach. “That provides for actual injury and it’s closely tethered in time to the security breach,” Rothken said. Sony’s behavior also “appears to border on gross negligence,” he said. For starters, Sony failed to encrypt sensitive information or build a legitimate firewall, he said. “[If Sony had taken such precautions, it] would have been able to see suspicious traffic and shut down the network,” Rothken said. “There are a lot of differences between this and a lot of other data breach cases.” Parker said the California venue means that some very specific statutory remedies under California law are appropriate in this case. California is the right venue, and Sony’s own terms of service dictates that California law applies,” Parker said. Sony did not respond to requests for comment. According to court papers in the Massachusetts case, name plaintiff Dawn Thomson purchased a Sony PlayStation 3 console around 2009. According to the complaint, Thompson provided “an extensive amount of sensitive personal and financial information to the company.” The case also names Sony Network Entertainment International LLC as a defendant. Thompson’s legal claims include negligence, invasion of privacy and misappropriation of confidential financial information, breach of implied contract and breach of express contract. Thompson asked the court to award injunctive relief, restitution, actual, statutory, and punitive damage and attorney fees and costs. Thompson’s lawyer Kenneth Gilman, a Wareham, Mass. lawyer at Boston’s Gilman and Pastor, did not return a call for comment. Sheri Qualters can be contacted at [email protected].

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