PORTLAND, Maine (8/1/08)--A U.S. District Court judge has appointed two Maine lawyers to lead the class-action lawsuit against Maine-based grocery chain owner Hannaford Bros. in one of the largest data-breach cases in U.S. history. The data breach exposed more than four million credit and debit card numbers from customers of nearly 300 grocery outlets in New England, New York, and Florida. Hundreds experienced fraudulent transactions on their accounts. The breach caused many credit unions to reissue cards to members whose information was compromised (News Now March 24). Judge D. Brock Hornby said Peter Murray of the Portland law firm Murray, Plumb & Murray, and Lewis Saul, with offices in Portland and New York City, would lead the case, at least for the early stages of what could be a long legal process (Kennebec Journal Morning Sentinel July 31). In his order, Hornby said that involving fewer firms and having centralization in Maine "should not only be sufficient, but should help avoid unnecessary legal fees and administration." He acknowledged that a different or larger leadership structure in the case may be appropriate later "if and when a class is certified and full discovery on the merits ensues." It would be premature to make that decision now, he said. Two groups of lawyers were competing to become lead lawyers in the case. The other group includes class-action lawyers from Boston, Chicago, Miami and Philadelphia. Roughly 24 lawsuits were filed against Hannaford and its parent company, Delhaize America Inc., before the cases were ordered consolidated. Murray and Lewis will consolidate the cases into one central complaint, which must be filed by Sept. 12, said the Morning Sentinel. Hornby has not yet certified the case as a class action. If he does so, he will then decide whether Murray and Saul will continue as lead counsel or whether other lawyers will take up that role. The data breach occurred between early December 2007 and the end of February 2008 as shoppers swiped their cards for authorization of the funds. The data breach is different than others because Hannaford says it had industry standards to prevent data breaches were in place.