Colson Hicks Eidson partner Francisco “Frank” Maderal. Photo by Harvey Bilt

Attorneys handling the fallout from from the Marriott International data breach have moved to consolidate the litigation in Miami.

Litigators from three firms —  Colson Hicks Eidson, Podhurst Orseck and Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton — have filed a brief to consolidate suits over Marriott’s handling of a hack that affected up to 500 million records and left customers vulnerable to thieves and fraudulent activity. The brief argues that Miami, rather than the hotel chain’s headquarters in Maryland, is a more appropriate venue for courtroom proceedings on the matter.

“All three firms independently saw the strength and appropriateness of Miami as a forum for the consolidated lawsuits,” said Colson Hicks Eidson partner Francisco “Frank” Maderal, who cited a history of collaboration between the firms, as well as the Southern District of Florida’s experience with this area of litigation.

Read the brief: 

“Our judges probably have more experience with identity theft than any, because federal prosecutors have chosen Miami as the epicenter for a DOJ cybercrime taskforce,” Maderal said. “Further, Miami has the strongest nexus to the victims, whether they reside in Florida or stayed in a Starwood Hotel here. Given our population and tourism industry, South Florida is truly the epicenter of this breach.”

The attorney also stated the possibility of trying the case in Maryland “made no sense” to him and other litigators.

“For starters, the breach occurred from Starwood’s servers, which during the relevant period were never in Maryland,” Maderal said. “It just isn’t a benefit to the victims of this data breach to have to litigate their claims in a multi-national corporation’s hometown.”

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation will hear their proposition Jan. 31, with Podhurst Orseck attorney Peter Prieto presenting.

Even as the attorneys prepare for the hearing, new complaints are emerging against Marriott in federal court in Florida. A class action lawsuit critical of the company’s handling of the data breach was filed in Miami on Tuesday. The complaint, filed by Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton litigator Detra Shaw-Wilder on behalf of plaintiff Lisa Axelrod, alleges negligence, unjust enrichment and a violation of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.

“Marriott did not just lose people’s names, addresses, account information and payment card information, it also lost highly secure information such as passport numbers, trip dates and dates of birth,” the suit said. “This is the precise sort of non-traditional public information that is used by banks and other consumer companies to verify identities, meaning the loss of this information will make it much more likely that Marriott customers will be subject to identity fraud, costing them thousands of dollars in remediation efforts and countless hours of their personal time.”

The suit contends Marriott not only failed to protect the private information of its customers, but further erred by “failing to promptly, timely, clearly, accurately, and completely inform” Axelrod and a proposed nationwide class of plaintiffs that their personal and financial information had been stolen.

Along with Axelrod, the lawsuit would include “all persons in the United States whose personal and financial information was compromised as a result of the data breach” that Marriott first disclosed Nov. 30. A subclass would comprise of “all members of the nationwide class who are residents of Florida.”

Read the complaint: 

Meanwhile, Axelrod, a Florida resident, claimed she noticed “suspicious activity” on her credit report.

A representative for Marriott said the company is not commenting on the litigation.

Shaw-Wilder did not respond to requests for comment by deadline. The lawsuit also names Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro litigators Thomas Loeser and Shelby Smith as attorneys for the plaintiff and proposed class. The Seattle-based lawyers also did not respond to inquires by press time.

Related stories:

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Morgan & Morgan Files First Marriott Data Breach Class Action