Jessica Karmasek Dec. 10, 2015, 3:27pm


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - Class action lawsuits filed against Canada-based Ashley Madison, a membership website marketed to people who are married or in a committed relationship, over this summer’s cyberattack will be consolidated in a Missouri federal court.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation issued a transfer order Wednesday.

The five-member panel selected the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri to handle the lawsuits, saying the federal court will serve “the convenience of the parties and witnesses.”

Centralization, the panel added, will “eliminate duplicative discovery, prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, particularly with respect to class certification, and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel, and the judiciary.”

In July, a group of hackers, calling themselves “The Impact Team,” stole all of Ashley Madison’s customer data -- including email addresses, names, home addresses, sexual fantasies and credit card information -- and threatened to post all of the data online if the website was not permanently closed.

Avid Life Media, the company that owns Ashley Madison, refused to shut down the website. In turn, the hackers released all user data.

Days later, class action complaints against Avid began trickling into various federal courts.

The first was filed in the Eastern District of Missouri.

The action is one of five -- another two pending in the Central District of California, one in the Northern District of Alabama and one in the Northern District of Texas -- that will be consolidated in the Missouri federal court.

According to the panel’s four-page order, it also has been notified of 13 related, “tag-along” actions pending in eight districts.

Judge John A. Ross will preside over the litigation, the order states.

Sarah Vance, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana and chair of the MDL panel, noted that the Eastern District of Missouri is “relatively convenient” for the defendants, which are located in Toronto.

Also, she said, the district has the support of both plaintiffs and defendants.

Avid, which supported the motion to centralize in the Eastern District of Missouri, could not immediately be reached for comment on the transfer order.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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