PORTLAND, Maine (6/11/08)--More than 20 lawsuits filed in four states over a recent data breach of grocery chain Hannaford Bros. Co.'s computer network have been consolidated under one judge in Portland, Maine. The decision, by a seven-judge panel meeting May 29 in Asheville, N.C., was announced Monday (Bangor Daily News and Associated Press via Boston HeraldJune 10). It means that the lawsuits already filed--and any filed in the future-- will be consolidated under the federal court's multi-district litigation program and be heard in Portland by U.S. District Judge D. Brock Hornby. The panel's order indicated that centralization in Maine would be convenient to the parties and witnesses, and promote the "just and efficient conduct" in the court. Hannaford's headquarters is in Maine and relevant documents would be easier to make available there, the panel said. Attorneys for victims who filed lawsuits in Florida had asked the cases to be consolidated there. The lawsuits stem from a breach from Dec. 7, 2007, to March 10, which allowed hackers to steal the credit and debit card numbers of 4.2 million Hannaford customers while they swiped the cards for authorization of purchases at grocery stores. It was the first major breach of a system that was compliant with industry standards. The breach affected customers at about 300 stores--most of them Hannaford stores and Florida's Sweetbay chain. When the breach was made public, the Maine Credit Union League noted that Maine's credit union and banks would feel the brunt of the attack. At that time, 68 credit unions in the state were reissuing more than 100,000 credit and debit cards to try to limit the amount of fraud (News Now March 24). As of June 1, at least 23 lawsuits related to the breach were filed: 14 in Maine, seven in Florida, one in New Hampshire and one in New York. Judge Hornby is expected to assign a team of attorneys to act as lead counsel on all the cases by the end of June, said the Bangor Daily News.