Attorneys who filed class actions against Target Corp. over its security breach last month have moved to coordinate the swelling tide of litigation, estimated at nearly 50 lawsuits.
Target on Dec. 19 announced a breach in security involving debit and credit card transactions at its stores across the country. The breach potentially affected 40 million customers who made purchases between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15—the peak of the holiday shopping season. Target has said it was in touch with state attorneys general, the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Justice in investigating what happened.
Target announced on Friday that its investigation revealed that up to 70 million individuals might have had personal information stolen, like names, mailing addresses, phone numbers or email addresses.
Daniel Becnel of Becnel Law Firm in Reserve, La., who filed a suit on Dec. 24, moved the same day before the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to coordinate the litigation for pretrial purposes in a federal district court in Louisiana.
Since then, other plaintiffs attorneys have moved to coordinate the cases in districts in Utah and Illinois. The most recent motion, filed on Thursday, seeks to coordinate in Minnesota, where Target is based.
Target, which has retained Morrison & Foerster as national counsel, is due to respond by Jan. 23. Four attorneys are handling the cases—Los Angeles partner David McDowell, co-chairman of the consumer litigation and class action practice; and San Francisco partners Harold McElhinny, Jack Londen and Michael Agoglia, co-chairman of the financial services litigation practice. McElhinny referred requests for comment to Target’s press office.
Target has issued public statements maintaining that the issue has been “identified and eliminated.” In court documents, Target has estimated that as many as 48 lawsuits had been filed over the breach.
The suits seek damages under various state laws for consumer fraud, breach of contract and negligence in protecting the privacy and personal financial data of its customers, now at risk of identity theft. Most plaintiffs don’t allege they suffered from unauthorized charges on their credit cards due to the breach.
But the breach could have caused other damages, such as not being able to use a credit card to pay utility bills and for Christmas gifts, Becnel said.
Some plaintiffs have invoked the federal Stored Communications Act, which provides statutory damages of $1,000 per violation.
“It provides consumers with redress if a company mishandles their electronically stored information,” said Rand Nolen of Houston’s Fleming, Nolen & Jez, who filed the motion to coordinate in Minnesota.
The MDL panel’s next hearing is scheduled for Jan. 30 in New Orleans, although lawyers anticipate that the Target cases could be heard during its March 27 hearing in San Diego.
Contact Amanda Bronstad at email@example.com.