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Brinker International, Inc. v. Steinmetz

In 2018, a hacker broke into the computer systems of the Chili’s restaurant chain, stole the information for 4.5 million credit and debit cards belonging to Chili’s customers, and published that information on the dark web. A group of affected consumers filed a class action against Chili’s corporate owner, Brinker International, alleging that Brinker had negligently failed to safeguard customer information. A federal district court certified a class action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3), which authorizes a class action where, among other things, “questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members.” In granting class certification, the court rejected Brinker’s argument that the issue of class members’ individual monetary damages would predominate over common questions, explaining that the plaintiffs had proposed a workable method for calculating individual damages. On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit upheld this aspect of the district court’s reasoning, although it vacated the class-certification order and remanded to the district court for further consideration of other aspects of the predominance analysis.

Brinker petitioned the Supreme Court to review the Eleventh Circuit’s holding on the damages issue. Co-counseling with the law firms Federman & Sherwood and Morgan & Morgan, Public Citizen filed a brief opposing Brinker’s petition. The brief in opposition explains that the petition mischaracterizes the district court’s careful analysis and the expert evidence upon which it relied, which, viewed accurately, are consistent with Supreme Court and federal appellate precedent. The brief also explains that review is particularly inappropriate in light of the ongoing proceedings in the district court, which will influence resolution of the predominance issue that Brinker asks the Supreme Court to review. The Court denied the petition.