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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

Washington Appeals Court disagrees with appellant in a class action data breach; affirms lower court’s decision

Courts Washington Appellate Data Breach Unfair DHHS Class Action

Courts

On January 8, the Washington State Court of Appeals affirmed superior court rulings granting final approval to a class action settlement, denying a motion to consolidate six class action lawsuits, and approving a class notice plan. According to the opinion, in 2021, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notified the respondent company, a nonprofit organization serving low-income individuals, of a data breach that exposed the social security numbers of 163,499 individuals. In 2022, appellant filed a class action lawsuit against the respondent company, one of six such separate class action lawsuits. The appellant filed a motion to consolidate the six pending class action lawsuits, which was denied. Subsequently, plaintiffs in one of the class action lawsuits signed a settlement agreement and release that would release, discharge, and bar all claims asserted in the other class action lawsuits and provide compensation anywhere from $100 to $25,000 to impacted individuals. The appellant plaintiff then filed the instant appeal alleging that the lower court abused its discretion by denying her motion to consolidate the six actions, that the class action plan failed to provide reasonable notice, and that the settlement was not fair, reasonable, or adequate because “the settlement is the product of collusion between the settling parties.” The appellate court disagreed and ultimately upheld the lower court’s rulings.