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Hannaford judge seeks Maine Supreme Court input
PORTLAND, Maine (10/8/09)--A federal judge who ruled against compensating consumers in a potential class-action lawsuit against Hannaford Bros. has reconsidered and is seeking input on the data breach case from the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. In a decision filed Monday, U.S. District Judge D. Brock Hornby agreed to seek input from the state's highest court on a question that has no precedent in Maine (MaineBusiness.com and Portland Press Herald Oct. 6) . The question is: Do Hannaford shoppers who had to be reimbursed by their banks and went through other hassles associated with stolen account numbers have the right to seek damages for their effort and lost time? Plaintiffs filed a motion this summer asking Hornby to reconsider his original May 12 ruling in which he said consumers cannot seek compensation for the breaches. In that ruling, he dismissed all civil claims against the Scarborough, Maine-based Hannaford. "Those are the ordinary frustrations and inconveniences that everyone confronts in daily life with or without fraud or negligence," Hornby wrote in his May ruling. "Maine law requires that there be a way to attach a monetary value to a claimed loss. These fail that requirement." The plaintiffs in the original case filed a motion last summer asking the judge to reconsider. If the court confirms the original May decision against the consumers, the case will likely end, said the Portland Press Herald. However, if the court finds that consumers have the right to sue for lost time and effort, the case will be revived and plaintiffs will seek class-action status. The grocer experienced one of the largest data breaches in history in late 2007 and early 2008, resulting in millions of compromised card numbers. By the time it made the breach public in mid-March, 2008, cyberthieves had used the stolen data for 1,800 frauduent charges. Hannaford's attorneys argued that the system of contracts between merchants, banks and credit unions, and consumers, as well as a federal law requiring financial institutions to reverse fraudulent charges, work to protect consumers. An extra layer of liability would serve no public good, they said.
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