Thursday, March 20, 2008

Frivolous lawsuit?

There are some things that I think are just plain insane. I have great respect for most lawyers and if I were ever in trouble, the first person I’d seek for help would be an attorney. Yet the law profession is the butt of many jokes and, in general, has a bad name.

Now along come a lawyer in Bangor and one in Philadelphia who are taking the profession’s good name to new lows. They’re filing multi-million dollar lawsuits the Hannaford Brothers food market chain over the breach of security in allowing credit/debit card information to be stolen. Hannaford announced earlier this week that at least four million credit cards have had their numbers stolen during transactions at various Hannaford stores, associate stores, and at least one sister chain.

So far about 1800 unauthorized uses of the various cards have been reported. One of my physical therapists got a call the other night from her credit card bank. The bank had noticed some unusual activity on her account and, protecting her interests, called her to ask if purchases of more than 500 dollars in New Jersey and Pennsylvania were her purchases. I wasn’t at her home when the call came, but from what she said, I’d say she got a little excited. The bank cleared the charges. She told me that at no time did the bank ask her for any personal information, which a real bank never does.

I have two debit cards I use. My wife has a debit card she uses at, yes, Hannaford super market. So I’ve called my issuers and canceled our debit accounts and requested new cards with new numbers. So far, I have not been compromised but if the cards remain live, the unauthorized use could take place years down the road. Now our cards are closed. Both issuers were extremely helpful in the procedure and both said I was doing the right thing. I should have my new cards in a few days. Until then I’ll be a cash carrier.

So what’s all this got to do with lawyers? The Bangor Daily News reports that a Bangor attorney has filed a class action lawsuit against Hannaford for an unspecified amount, but suggests it’s in the $5 million range. He filed it on behalf of a woman.

The BDN article says (using the names of the complainant and attorney), “(The woman) has not been the victim of credit card fraud, (the lawyer) said Wednesday, or had purchases that she did not authorize charged to her debit or charge cards as a result of the breach. The lawsuit is seeking compensation for the breach itself, he said.”

The woman had not been a victim and had no purchases she did not authorize charged to her cards. And we wonder why attorneys get bad names.

Meanwhile, a large law firm in Philadelphia has also filed a class action suit against Hannaford in U.S. District Court in Portland. The suits are similar except this one is on behalf of customers whose card data was stolen.

If the lawsuits are successful, the winners are the lawyers who will undoubtedly get a least a third of any settlement and possibly a lot more. The losers would be you and me as we watch grocery prices go out of sight.

And, as I said earlier, lawyers wonder why they have such a reputation.

I have nothing to report yet on the arrival of my son and his family. They’re expected here early this evening. It’s been a long time so these are anxious moments. As I finish this for today, the boy just called and is on his way from Boston to here. We’re really getting excited now.


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