The Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation (“MDL Panel” or “Panel”) has transferred 97 putative class actions relating to the Equifax data breach to the Northern District of Georgia, where Equifax is headquartered. Judge Thomas Thrash, who previously handled the consolidated class actions relating to the Home Depot data breach, will preside over the actions. Eighty-five of the plaintiffs and Equifax supported this result, while the remaining plaintiffs proposed centralization in other federal district courts. Although certain plaintiffs proposed centralization in jurisdictions with plaintiff-friendly precedent on the issue of Article III standing in data breach cases, the Panel firmly rejected these arguments: “the Panel does not consider the possible implications with respect to standing or other potential rulings when it selects a transferee district.” Only one party – plaintiffs in one of 200-plus potential tagalongs – opposed centralization entirely. The Panel noted that actions by various financial institution plaintiffs were among the potential tagalong actions, and stated that any objections to the inclusion of those cases in centralized proceedings could be addressed by the Panel in the event of objections to conditional transfer.
The MDL Panel also consolidated 64 individual actions by various state and local government entities against manufacturers and distributors of opioid drugs for pretrial purposes in the Northern District of Ohio. The cases will proceed before Judge Dan Polster, who currently presides over two of the consolidated cases, and has recent experience presiding over MDL products liability cases. In granting the petitions for consolidation, the MDL Panel emphasized that the cases raised “common fact questions as to the allegedly improper marketing and widespread diversion of prescription opiates into various states, counties and cities across the nation.” Although the panel acknowledged that individual issues may arise in each action, the Panel stated the transferee court could address these by creating different tracks for particular parties or claims. The Panel also denied requests to delay transfer pending rulings on various motions to dismiss or remand. The Panel selected the Northern District of Ohio from among the various proposed transferee courts, as Ohio experienced a “significant rise in the number of opioid-related overdoses” in recent years and was relatively close to the headquarters of various defendants. As for the 115 potentially related actions – which encompass claims by consumers, hospitals, and third party payors – the Panel declined to speculate whether the MDL might evolve to include these additional parties and claims, stating that it could address those questions as needed through the conditional transfer process.
In re Equifax, Inc., Customer Data Security Breach Litigation, MDL No. 2800 (J.M.P.L. Dec. 6, 2017).
In re National Prescription Opiate Litigation, MDL No. 2804 (J.M.P.L. Dec. 5, 2017).