Friday, June 19, 2015 - Well over a dozen actions from around the country pending against Anthem Inc. in relation to the company‘s medical data breach have been consolidated into multidistrict litigation in the Northern District of California. That particular federal court is a popular choice for technology MDLs given its proximity to silicon valley and the large tech community in the surrounding area. The transfer order, handed down on June 13, was given following oral arguments made at the May 28 Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation hearing in Minneapolis.
Plaintiffs in the Anthem data breach lawsuit claim are seeking damages for the roughly 80 million customers and employees that had personal information compromised when data hackers found their way into Anthem‘s computer network. A large amount of sensitive data was stolen from Anthem‘s hacked database. Social security numbers, names, addresses and much more were compromised as a result of the hacking.
More than 100 actions are currently pending against Anthem, although only 17 will be directly affected by the transfer order. Dozens of additional lawsuits against Anthem are expected to join the MDL now that it has been created. The lawsuits directly affected in the certification include actions from Alabama, California, Georgia and Ohio.
The judges selected Northern California as the location for the MDL, stating that it will provide an adequate headquarters for both witnesses and involved parties to conveniently participate in the litigation‘s proceedings. The JPML also referenced the fact that many plaintiffs supported Northern California as a possible transfer destination. The arguments will be heard by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh.
Some parties were in support of centralizing the lawsuits in Indiana as it is where Anthem is located. The arguments also referenced the fact that seven pending motions against Anthem were already taking place there. However, the JPML stated that Anthem has plenty of clout in Northern California, where it is the area‘s largest health company.
Anthem, the country‘s second-largest health insurer, first reported that they had been the victim of a data breach in February of 2015. Within one day of the announcement, lawsuits began to be filed against the insurer. The announcement, which took place on February 4, explained that the data breach had taken place throughout the Anthem network of insurers. Anthem Blue Cross, Amerigroup and UniCare were among a handful of companies under Anthem‘s umbrella that were affected by the breach.
Plaintiffs are alleging that in allowing the data breach to take place, Anthem violated a number of statutes related to data breaches and consumer protection. They claim that Anthem did not take the expected steps needed to protect its customers‘ information frim the possibility of a data hacking attack.
Anthem recently made a $540-billion bid in an attempt to take over the fifth-largest health insurer Cigna Corp. That bid was rejected by Cigna, in part because of the litigation surrounding Anthem in relation to their data breach.
Referencing the attention the data breach already has, the JPML opined that the MDL will continue to grow far beyond the 17 cases represented in the transfer order.