In the latest sign that data breach class actions are here to stay—and, indeed, growing—the D.C. Circuit resuscitated claims against health insurer CareFirst BlueCross and Blue Shield, following a 2015 breach that compromised member names, dates of birth, email addresses, and subscriber identification numbers of approximately 1.1 million individuals. The decision aligns the second most powerful federal appellate court in the nation with pre-Spokeo decisions in Neiman Marcus and P.F. Chang and post-Spokeo decisions in other circuits (Third, Seventh, and Eleventh). In short, an increased risk of identity theft constitutes an imminent injury-in-fact, and the risk of future injury is substantial enough to support Article III standing.
The D.C. Circuit’s holding is an important development. First, the D.C. Circuit went beyond credit card numbers and social security numbers to expand the scope of data types that create a risk to individuals (i.e., names, birthdates, emails, and health insurance subscriber ID numbers). Second, the decision makes clear that organizations should carefully consider the interplay between encryption (plus other technical data protection measures) and “risk of harm” exceptions to notification, including exceptions that may be available under HIPAA and GLBA statutory regimes. READ MORE
It was about time for data breach defendants to get a win. The District Court for the Northern District of Illinois delivered one to Barnes & Noble in its long-running class action that stems from a breach suffered in 2012. Plaintiffs’ case was dismissed in its entirety on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). This development—just days after the Sixth Circuit in Nationwide had aligned itself with the Seventh Circuit’s Neiman Marcus and P.F. Chang’s decisions that found standing to sue for breach plaintiffs—shows that the legal battle over “harm” may start with standing, but goes nowhere absent alleged damages that tightly match the substantive elements of each claim.
The Sixth Circuit joined the growing trend of appellate courts holding that plaintiffs had demonstrated standing for data breach class actions in Galaria et al. v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. In a recent order, the Sixth Circuit highlighted yet another fact that supports standing, that clients should consider in their post-breach response efforts: a recommendation that consumers set up fraud alerts and place security freezes on credit reports, without an accompanying offer to pay for the security freeze itself.
Last week, the Seventh Circuit revived a data breach class action against P.F. Chang’s restaurant in an important opinion that continues a plaintiff-friendly trend that began with the court’s opinion in the Neiman Marcus case that we previously reported on here. The court used statements that P.F. Chang’s made in response to the breach and protective remediation measures it implemented to draw inferences that customers were at a risk of identity theft and harm, and then used those inferences to find that plaintiffs had standing to proceed with their litigation. The case raises new issues that organizations should consider in crafting post-breach communications, and important takeaway lessons that may help increase the likelihood of obtaining dismissal of data breach class actions at the pleadings stage.