News Column

Target lawyer suggests mediation for resolving data breach lawsuits

June 25, 2014

By Tom Webb, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.



June 25--More than 140 lawsuits related to the Target data breach are inching through the courts, but now there's talk of resolving them in a quicker and quieter way, an attorney for Target indicated Wednesday.

In a federal courtroom in St. Paul, attorney Wendy Wildung, representing Minneapolis-based Target, told District Judge Paul Magnuson that Target is considering "the possibility of an early case resolution" for the data-breach lawsuits. She mentioned an Aug. 11 mediation meeting.

If the mediation path ultimately proves successful, it could short-circuit the need for public trials related to Target's data breach -- and provide a confidential resolution for Target, which has already suffered a huge black eye with the public.

Over the holidays, cybercriminals stole credit and debit-card information from 40 million Target shoppers. Some of that stolen information was later sold online to other criminals, alarming shoppers, leading to sizeable losses, and ultimately costing Target's CEO his job.

At least 142 lawsuits -- filed by banks, consumers and shareholders in 28 states -- have been consolidated in St. Paul before Judge Magnuson.

Wednesday was the second case-management conference since Magnuson took charge of the sprawling case, and the judge again insisted on moving things along.

"We've got an ambitious schedule," Magnuson told the 20 or so attorneys in the courtroom, a much smaller crowd than the 100 lawyers who initially gathered in St. Paul last month.

Magnuson has scheduled trials in the Target breach cases for March of 2016, with most discovery and consideration of class-action status scheduled for 2015.

That schedule "is not really slow by litigation standards," said Charles "Bucky" Zimmerman, one of the banks' lead attorneys in the case. "Actually, it's pretty fast."

Neither Zimmerman nor lead plaintiffs' attorney Karl Cambronne would comment on the possibility of mediation in the case.

Magnuson said last month that he would welcome resolving the cases without a trial.

Meanwhile, Target's attorney indicated that they expect many of the consumer cases to be dismissed.

Wildung, a partner at the Minneapolis firm of Faegre Baker Daniels, told the judge that in other large data-breaches, some consumers have filed lawsuits, but "the vast majority of these cases have been dismissed" because the consumers cited only prospective harm, not actual harm.

Tom Webb can be reached at 651-228-5428. Follow him at twitter.com/TomWebbMN.

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(c)2014 the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.)

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Source: Saint Paul Pioneer Press (MN)


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