September 28, 2020

Home Depot data-breach case split between consumers, banks


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Home-Depot-BreachBy Amanda Bronstad, From The National Law Journal

A federal judge in Atlanta has divided the litigation over last year’s data breach at The Home Depot Inc. into two tracks: consumers and financial institutions.

Both groups have filed more than 30 class actions over the breach, which compromised the data of 56 million customers who made purchases at checkout terminals from April to September. A federal panel last month ordered the cases coordinated for pretrial purposes before Thomas Thrash, chief judge of the Northern District of Georgia.

Home Depot has turned to two Atlanta firms to handle the litigation. The retailer, based in Atlanta, has retained Phyllis Sumner, head of the data, privacy and security practice at King & Spalding, in the consumer actions, while Alston & Bird’s Cari Dawson will respond to cases brought by credit unions and banks that have sued over losses associated with reissuing debit and credit cards.

“While many of the legal issues and much of the discovery are common to the claims of both, the cases present significant, distinct factual and legal issues,” Thrash wrote in a Friday order. “Accordingly, to manage the litigation most efficiently, the court hereby creates separate tracks for the consumer and financial institution cases.”

Home Depot spokesman Stephen Holmes said in an email: “Throughout the investigation and mitigation of the breach, our primary focus has been on our customers. We’ll continue to deal with any legal matters in due course and in the proper venue.”

Thrash, who held the first hearing in the litigation on Friday, split the case in much the same way that U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson in Minnesota has done in the data-breach cases against Target Corp. In that docket, more than 140 class actions have been filed against Target over a breach that affected 110 million customers in 2013. Magnuson has refused to dismiss two separate consolidated complaints filed by consumers and financial institutions.

Dawson, chairwoman of Alston & Bird’s class action practice team, represents Home Depot cases with Kristine McAlister Brown, chairwoman of the firm’s telecommunications & technology and privacy litigation practices. Dawson was lead counsel for Toyota Motor Corp. in the consumer class actions filed over its sudden-acceleration defects that settled for $1.6 billion in 2013.

The King & Spalding team includes partners L. Joseph Loveland and S. Stewart Haskins.

Thrash ordered that applications for plaintiffs lead counsel be submitted by Feb. 2. The first consolidated complaints are due in April.

Photo: Ildar Sagdejev via Wikimedia Commons

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