Posted in Data Privacy Class Actions, tagged class action, privacy class action, article III, data privacy, wiretapping, data breach, hannaford, clapper, iapp, credit monitoring, identity theft on April 24, 2013 |
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Data breach cases are popular targets for class actions these days because a single incident of hacking or theft can expose the sensitive personal or financial information of millions of people at a time. However, a key hurdle in these cases has been proof of harm sufficient to satisfy the Article III injury-in-fact standard for cases filed in the federal courts (or in state courts that apply a similar injury-in-fact standard). Recently, plaintiffs have been attempting to get around the standing problem by alleging that they had to incur credit monitoring fees or other out-of-pocket expenses due to a fear of identity theft.
Shannon Tan, associate corporate counsel for Raymond James Financial, Inc., in St. Petersburg, FL, recently authored an insightful article for the IAPP newsletter The Privacy Advisor, titled Supreme Court Wiretap Ruling Upholds Stringent Standing-To-Sue Requirements. Tan’s article discusses the potential impact of the Supreme Court’s decision in Clapper v. Amnesty International USA on the question of Article III standing in civil data breach cases. Tan points out that while Clapper is case involving alleged wiretapping by the government, it is likely to make it more difficult for plaintiffs to meet the Article III standing requirements in civil data breach cases because data breaches often don’t result in any immediate harm but only a threat of potential future harm. A threat of harm must be “certainly impending” to satisfy the Article III standard set forth in Clapper. This issue is exacerbated in the class action context, because even if some members of the class can prove actual harm, such as identity theft, it is a rare case where the plaintiff would have some common proof that identity theft occurred for all class members, a problem that recently doomed certification of a class action in In re Hannaford Bros. Co. Customer Data Security Breach Litigation.
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Posted in Class Action Decisions, Class Action Trends, Federal Court Decisions, tagged article III, class certification, holding company, juridical link, juridically linked, mahon, second circuit, sister company, standing, ticor on July 6, 2012 |
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For those who practice in the area of insurance-related class actions, I highly recommend an article posted yesterday by Robinson and Cole Partner Wystan Ackerman, who is the primary contributor to his firm’s Insurance Class Actions Insider blog. The article, Standing to Sue in Insurance Class Action Addressed By Second Circuit, summarizes the Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision late last month in Mahon v. Ticor Title Ins. Co., No. 10-3005-cv, 2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 12947 (2d Cir. Jun. 25, 2012), which held that the “juridical link” doctrine could not be used to give a plaintiff who bought insurance from one insurance company standing to represent a class of insureds who purchased policies from the defendant’s sister companies.
The Mahon decision is an important development in the area of insurance class action law. Insurance companies are commonly organized into holding company systems. (The primary reason for this is not to make it more difficult to sue them, but rather so that they can comply with individual states’ domicile, risk-based capital, rate filing, and other regulatory requirements, as well as to allow the introduction of new products without disrupting the expectations of existing policyholders.) As a result, the same insurance brand can be sold through a number of different underwriting companies. At the risk of grossly oversimplifying the concept, the “juridical link” argument, as it has been raised in the insurance class action context, is that companies that are linked together through common ownership, brand, business practices, or sharing of resources can be sued in the same lawsuit by a representative plaintiff that has a claim against any one of them.
Those who prosecute or defend insurance class actions on a regular basis will recognize that the juridical link argument is nothing new. Use of the juridical doctrine as a tactic to sue multiple, related defendants in a single class action hit its peak in the middle part of the last decade. However, the tactic has waned in recent years as plaintiffs’ lawyers realized that it was much more efficient to simply round up a separate class representative for each underwriting company than to spend their time and effort briefing the complex procedural and constitutional issues implicated by the juridical link doctrine.
Even so, as the recentness of the Mahon decision suggests, the argument has not gone away for good, and practical considerations in any given case can make it a tactic worth pursuing. And, if the doctrine is on the comeback trail as a litigation tactic, Mahon provides an arrow in the quiver of defense attorneys for defeating it.
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