Lawsuits against the credit reporting company Equifax over last year’s data breach have been consolidated in a Georgia federal court for multidistrict litigation (MDL).
The lawsuits that have been centralized in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia include class actions filed by consumers who claim the breach violated their privacy and exposed them to identity theft and by banks and other financial institutions that have racked up considerable expense in responding to the breach on behalf of their customers.
The Equifax data breach occurred in mid-May 2017 and continued undetected through at least June, exposing the data of more than 145 million people – including more than 60 percent of U.S. adults — to hackers with nefarious intentions.
The consumer information hackers obtained includes the names of U.S. consumers and their social security numbers, dates of birth, addresses, and driver’s license numbers. Additionally, the credit card numbers for 209,000 consumers were stolen.
One lawyer representing a financial institution suing Equifax indicated to Law 360 that the breach was potentially more damaging than the usual point-of-sale breach, such as the Target and Home Depot data breaches.
“You’re talking about a breach of the repository of all of the basic information — all the consumers’ Social Security numbers, addresses, and [other data] that make up a person’s entire identity,” the lawyer told Law 360.
One lawsuit, filed by the City of Chicago, claims that Equifax knew of the data breach from at least March 2017 through July 2017 but failed to warn Chicagoans and millions of others throughout the U.S. about the problem until September, further exacerbating the identity theft risk.
In addition to the credit bureau’s slow response time, the city’s lawsuit also claims there aren’t enough people manning Equifax’s consumer call center to address data breach concerns and that the company offered the public just one free year of credit monitoring.
According to Law 360, the complaint also criticizes Equifax for making consumers waive their rights to participate in a class action over the breach if they accept the company’s offer for a year’s worth of free credit monitoring.