Heather Isringhausen Gvillo Nov. 29, 2014, 6:00pm

Schnuck Markets removed a class action lawsuit to federal court that alleges the grocer disclosed the plaintiffs’ credit and debit card numbers to computer hackers.

Schnuck Markets filed its notice of removal on Jan. 21 through attorney Russell K. Scott of Greensfelder Hemker & Gale, removing the case to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

The defendant claims removal is proper because diversity of citizenship within the hundreds of plaintiffs exists. In fact, the plaintiffs are citizens of California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.

Additionally, Schnuck Markets argues that the amount in controversy exceeds the threshold of $75,000, making removal appropriate in this case. It explains that “a one-third attorneys’ fees multiplier on plaintiffs’ $50,000 damage allegation alone puts the amount in controversy for any given plaintiff at $75,000, before punitive damages are considered.”

The Dec. 9 lawsuit was filed by lead plaintiff Clyde Allen and at least 100 other plaintiffs.

In their complaint, the plaintiffs allege computer hackers gained access to Schnuck Markets’ computer network on Dec. 9, 2012. Customers who purchased items at the store using plastic cards were prone to the hackers, who harvested the customers’ personal information and confidential financial data, the suit states.

“The hackers were able to obtain customers’ PII/CFD because defendant’s computer network and plastic card processing systems did not comply with industry-wide data security standards with which defendant was required to comply in order to accept plastic cards,” the suit states.

Schnuck Markets did nothing about the breach for at least three months, even though banks had warned the store about fraudulent charges customers had incurred, the complaint alleges.

As a result of the security breach, the plaintiffs allege they incurred financial losses, suffered embarrassment and damages to their personal credit. They also suffered other damages from their inability to access funds, lost time mitigating their increased risk of identity theft and fraud and endured mental and emotional anguish, according to the complaint.

“Defendant has not reimbursed plaintiffs for financial losses and other damages they suffered as a result of the unauthorized disclosure of their PII/CFD,” the suit states.

The plaintiffs accuse the company of negligence, breach of implied contract and violation of the Illinois Personal Information Protection Act.

The plaintiffs seek damages of more than $200,000, plus costs, attorney fees and other relief the court deems just.

John J. Driscoll and Christopher J. Quinn of The Driscoll Firm in St. Louis represents the plaintiffs.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 14-L-785

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