Sunday, September 6, 2015 - Lawsuits that have been building against the matchmaking website Ashley Madison could be headed to multidistrict litigation after one of the plaintiffs filed a motion to transfer the cases into multidistrict litigation. The plaintiff, which was the first to file suit against the website company, has designated Missouri as the state in which they wish the lawsuits to be consolidated in the motion filed with the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML).
Plaintiffs have filed suit against Avid Life Media claim that the data breach that affected the company and released personal information for millions of users affiliated with the Ashley Madison website resulted in personal information for those members to be compromised. There are currently at least five such lawsuits pending around the country, many of which would likely join into the multidistrict litigation if the motion to transfer is granted.
The motion to transfer claims that the lawsuits claim common questions of fact and were all filed at similar times after the hackers unloaded 10 gigabytes of user data from the Ashley Madison website. The federal court requested to host the multidistrict litigation is the Eastern District of Missouri District court, as that is where the first lawsuits against Ashley Madison was filed.
The website Ashleymadison.com was a matchmaking site that focused on married couples hoping to have an affair. The service would match up people who signed up on the site and advertised their handling of private information as secure to paying customers. The company‘s database was first hacked in July, and shortly thereafter the parent company of Ashley Madison Avid Life Media announced to its users that the emails associated with their account had been compromised. Though no financial information about the customers has been divulged, the nature of the website made the leaking of emails to be notably damaging for those who held accounts with Ashley Madison.
Avid Life Media, which is a company based in Canada, has reportedly offered 500,000 Canadian dollars for any information about the hackers that committed the data breach and subsequent dump. The hackers made themselves known only as a group called "Impact Team" and have not been apprehended to date. Avid Life also runs a series of similar websites, including Cougar Life and Established Men, that they claim were not affected by the data hack. The Ashley Madison website is still active as well, though it lost a good deal of popularity after the data breach.
The motion to transfer notes Missouri‘s geographical location in the middle of the country as a convenient place to base the litigation in as it will minimize travel from other parts of the U.S. Additional lawsuits have already been filed in Alabama, California and Texas in addition to the initial suit filed in Missouri. There are some factors that may get in the way of the JPML certifying the lawsuits, such as their low number of pending cases, but the plaintiffs that filed the motion to transfer has appealed to the panel to focus on the elements that do pertain to an MDL certification, such as the timing of the cases and the convenience consolidation will offer the litigation process for all the lawsuits. The date for the Hearing Session for this motion to transfer has not yet been announced.