Decision to Dismiss Excellus Data Breach Class Action Reversed in Favor of Plaintiffs

Excellus Data Breach LawsuitU.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford, who is presiding over the Excellus data breach class action, reinstated certain plaintiffs’ claims in a decision released on Friday that reconsidered and reversed her previous ruling dismissing those claims.

In a decision last February, Judge Wolford ruled that four of the twenty named plaintiffs in the class action could not proceed with their claims as they had not alleged any misuse of their personally identifiable information due to the breach. According to this ruling, the plaintiffs’ risk of future harm was not “certainly impending” and so they had failed to allege an injury sufficient to establish Article III standing.

Following the February decision, the plaintiffs filed a motion for reconsideration in March, arguing the Court had relied on undeveloped details regarding the breach that should not have been considered at this stage.

The Second Circuit’s May decision in the Whalen v. Michaels Stores Inc. case also helped strengthen the plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration.

The Whalen decision indicated in dicta that the theft of personally identifying information, such as Social Security numbers or birthdates, in a data breach would be enough for standing based on a threat of future harm.

“Until the Supreme Court or the Second Circuit definitively weighs in, in this circuit at least, harm based on the theft of personally identifying information, such as a Social Security number or date of birth, as alleged [by the Excellus plaintiffs], is sufficient to establish standing,” stated Judge Wolford in her decision.

The plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration also revealed new evidence which established that three of the dismissed plaintiffs’ data had been extracted from Excellus and was for sale on the dark web. This reinforced their claims that their personally identifying information had been compromised and that hackers had harmful intentions.

Judge Wolford explained, “Had the court had the benefit of all this additional information when it rendered its decision and order, it would have reached a different conclusion — and it does so now.”

In a statement to the Democrat & Chronicle, Hadley Matarazzo, who is one of the lead counsels for the plaintiffs, said they are “…pleased by the Court’s ruling and are thankful that the claims of the representative plaintiffs whose personally identifiable and health information has been stolen, but not yet misused, are reinstated and will move forward on behalf of this class of individuals.”

Court Holds Hearings on Excellus Class Action Case

ExcellusEarlier this year, the Defendants filed papers with the Court asking that the Class Action case be dismissed on various legal grounds. Plaintiffs filed opposition papers asking the Court to continue the case.

In September, Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford of the United States District Court for the Western District of New York held a hearing to hear argument on the various legal issues presented in the motion to dismiss papers and to ask the attorneys questions.

The hearing lasted over three and one-half hours, which is significantly longer than most hearings on a motion to dismiss, with Hadley Matarazzo and James Bilsborrow arguing on behalf of the plaintiffs.

The Court is expected to issue a decision on the case by the end of December.

To view copies of the motion papers filed by all of the parties, click here.