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Target lawsuits begin to be clustered, consolidated in federal court

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Almost 100 lawyers were in a federal courtroom in S. Paul Wednesday as part of the court case involving the data breach last year at Target.

The Pioneer Press reports more than 140 lawsuits have been consolidated before U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson.

In April, a federal panel consolidated dozens of suits filed over Target’s data breach into a single legal action. The plaintiffs in the suits include banks, shareholders and credit card companies that have been replacing cards of the 40 million shoppers who had card numbers compromised in the breach. The Legal Newsline reported the consolidation order also rolls more than 50 other legal actions into the case. Reuters explained the centralization was to eliminate duplication in discovery, prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, and conserve the resources of the parties and the judiciary, according to the transfer order.

Wednesday was the first time all parties in the cases gathered together, as Magnuson and U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Keyes tried to establish the process that would let the lawsuit proceed. Trials are scheduled for early in 2016. The Business Journal characterized it as "throngs of attorneys from around the country and just one judge."

The cases will be grouped into three clusters. The largest group of 111 cases is the consumer lawsuits. A second group of 29 cases was filed by banks and credit unions, which suffered fraud losses and the costs of reissuing cards. A third group of four cases is shareholder lawsuits.

Gathered in the courtroom were attorneys who have handled high profile cases, including 9/11 lawsuits, the NFL antitrust case, the Sony data breach, the TJX data breach and the Heartland Payment data breach.

"I'm beginning to learn this data breach business is quite a cottage industry," Magnuson said.

It's not yet clear whether class-action status will be granted in the case. If it is, that could clear the way for millions of Target shoppers to join in.

"I'd put it this way," Magnuson told the attorneys. "If there isn't a class motion pending, there's sure going to be one.

The Legal Newswire cited the cyber risks that created the Target lawsuits is "casting a growing shadow over board rooms and could be the mother lode for future securities litigation." The story looks at a report from Lockton, the world’s largest privately owned independent insurance brokerage firm, that assesses the state of securities litigation and looks toward the future of lawsuit trends. The report points to the Target breach as an example, with shareholders suits that claim breach of fiduciary duty and waste of corporate assets.

“The lawsuit dynamics surrounding the Target cyber breach can easily develop into a new litigation trend," the story said.

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