Hannaford Data Breach Case Ruling ComingA U.S. District Court judge will decide in the next few days whether the Hannaford Bros. data breach class action suit will go to trial.
Judge D. Brock Hornby heard final arguments on April 1 in the U.S. District Court, Portland, ME on the class action suit brought against the supermarket chain that had a data breach exposing more than 4 million credit and debit cards last March.
Hornby's pending ruling will decide if parts or all of the case will go to trial. Hannaford's attorneys asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit, filed days after the breach was made public on March 17, 2008. Plaintiffs' attorneys requested Hornby certify the case as a class-action suit and go to trial.
The class action lawsuit poses questions as to the level of merchant responsibility to secure electronic data that is processed with every credit or debit card purchase. It also asks what should the consequences be when the data is taken by hackers.
Between December 7, 2007, and March 10, 2008, the supermarket's systems were breached by hackers who took credit and debit card numbers, expiration dates and PIN numbers from people shopping at Hannaford supermarkets. The grocery chain operates more than 200 stores under various names in New England, New York and Florida. Around 1,800 fraudulent transactions were made by the time Hannaford announced the breach.
Hornby said he will issue a written decision as soon as he can. His opinion on the case will be found here when it is issued. This class action combines several lawsuits that were filed against Hannaford last year.
The attorneys for the plaintiffs are asking for added damages, saying Hannaford allegedly was aware of the breach at least three weeks before the company made it public.
Hannaford's attorneys say the plaintiffs didn't suffer any actual damages, and those cardholders who lost money from the fraudulent charges were reimbursed by the issuing banks. Hannaford's lead attorney, Clifford Ruprecht says the system of protections by credit card companies, including Visa, make lawsuits like this class action unnecessary and waste court resources. Ruprecht says there is not a precedent for what the plaintiffs propose, and the problems and inconvenience of cancelling cards don't amount to the legal foundation for a class-action lawsuit.
One legal expert familiar with the case told BankInfoSecurity.com that he expects the judge to turn down the case. "There is a 60-40 chance that the case will be turned down," he said on Thursday. In his opinion, the legal team representing the class action doesn't have a strong enough case.