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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

District Court dismisses data breach claims due to lack of jurisdiction

Courts Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Data Breach State Issues Of Interest to Non-US Persons

Courts

On November 8, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed a putative class action brought against a French cryptocurrency wallet provider and its e-commerce vendor after determining that the court does not have jurisdiction over the companies. Plaintiffs—customers who purchased hardware wallets through the vendor’s platform between July 2017 and June 2020—alleged violations of state-level consumer protection laws after a 2020 data breach exposed the personal contact information of thousands of vendor customers. Plaintiffs contended that when the breach was announced in 2020, the wallet provider failed to inform them that their data was involved in the breach. Plaintiffs also alleged that an unauthorized third party gained access to the wallet provider’s e-commerce database and obtained the email addresses of one million customers as well as physical contact information for 9,500 customers. According to the plaintiffs, the wallet provider did not disclose that the attack on its website and the vendor’s data theft were connected, and it downplayed the seriousness of the attack. As a result, plaintiffs were allegedly subject to “phishing scams, cyber-attacks, and demands for ransom and threats.” Plaintiffs claimed that the companies failed to implement appropriate security measures to protect customer data, and brought claims against the companies for injunctive relief and other remedies under California’s unfair competition law, Georgia’s Fair Business Practices Act, and New York’s General Business Law. The defendant companies moved to dismiss, arguing that the court lacked personal jurisdiction and that plaintiffs failed to state a claim.

The court determined that it does not have jurisdiction over the French wallet provider, and ruled, among other things, that the plaintiffs did not establish that the wallet provider “expressly aimed” its activities towards California in a way that would establish specific jurisdiction, and “did not cause harm in California that it knew was likely to be suffered there.” The court further held that the fact that the vendor was headquartered in California at the time the breach occurred is not sufficient to establish general jurisdiction because the vendor moved to Canada before the class action was filed. “Courts have uniformly held that general jurisdiction is to be determined no earlier than the time of filing of the complaint,” the court wrote, dismissing the case with prejudice.

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