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In February of this year, the largest ever healthcare data breach was reported. Anthem Inc., one of the nation’s largest healthcare insurers, was targeted by hackers using a phishing campaign and were able to break through security defenses and steal approximately 78.8 million member records.
The data breach launched a myriad of class-action lawsuits with breach victims seeking punitive damages for the exposure of their private and confidential information. The sheer number of cases threatens to swamp District Courts over the coming months. There are more than 100 class-actions pending in the state of California alone.
Single MDL for 17 Anthem Class-Action Lawsuits
This week the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation arrived at a decision to consolidate many of these class actions into one, and now 17 separate actions will be grouped together into a single Multi-District Litigation. It is probable that this number will grow substantially with such a high volume of suits still pending.
After each case was assessed individually the panel of seven decided to transfer the cases to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to be heard.
Announcing the decision, Chair of the Panel, Sarah S. Vance, said “Numerous plaintiffs support centralization in this district, both in the first instance and in the alternative. And, although headquartered in Indiana, Anthem has significant ties to California, where it is the largest for-profit health insurer and maintains several offices.”
Vance went on to say “This district thus presents a convenient and accessible forum with the necessary judicial resources and expertise to manage this litigation efficiently,”
The panel included 11 claims from California and seven from Indiana, and combines 17 separate class actions in total:
- Southern District of Indiana (7)
- Central District of California (5)
- Eastern District of California (1)
- Northern District of California (1)
- Northern District of Alabama (1)
- Northern District of Georgia (1)
- Southern District of Ohio (1)
The class-action lawsuits were not single state cases; attorneys had signed up victims from all over the United States. Each case would have require a full discovery processes to take place, pre-trial rulings could prove problematic and 17 separate actions would result in a considerable amount of unnecessary expenditure, by multiple parties.
The cases all had common cases of fact and were punitive in nature, so it was logical to combine them to “promote the just and efficient conduit of this litigation.” According to the panel.