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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

District Court partially denies company’s motion to dismiss in data breach class action

Courts Class Action Ransomware Negligence Data Breach State Issues Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security

Courts

On October 19, the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina granted in part and denied in part a defendant software company’s motion to dismiss a putative class action, which alleged the company had a “deficient security program” in place that led to a ransomware attack. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendant failed to comply with industry and regulatory standards by neglecting to implement proper security measures. According to the plaintiffs, after the ransomware attack, the defendant “launched a narrow internal investigation into the attack that analyzed a limited number of [the defendant's] systems and did not address the full scope of the attack.” The plaintiffs contended that the defendant also failed to provide timely and adequate notice of the attack and the extent of the resulting data breach.

The court ordered various phases of motions practice, and addressed certain common law claims against the defendant for negligence, negligence per se, gross negligence, and unjust enrichment. With respect to the negligence and gross negligence claims, the court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss, finding that plaintiffs alleged sufficient facts to show that the defendant owed them a duty to protect the information. The court, however, granted defendant’s motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ negligence per se claims premised on defendant’s alleged violations of the FTC Act, HIPAA, and COPPA, finding that the plaintiff failed to state such a claim as applied under South Carolina law. Finally, the court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ unjust enrichment claim because plaintiffs failed to allege facts to show that they conferred a benefit on defendant to support a claim for unjust enrichment.

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