The modern “Information Age” has been defined by rapidly increasing interconnectivity and dependence on the internet by consumers and businesses alike. One side effect of these technological advances has been the increasing frequency of cyberattacks and data breaches perpetrated by sophisticated cyber criminals using ever-evolving methods of infiltration. And, as can be expected, along with the increase in data breaches over the past few decades, we have seen the rise of data breach litigation, and in particular, consumer class action litigation against the companies who have been victimized by those data breaches. The Fourth Circuit has seen several high-profile data breach class actions. Such class actions often face difficult uphill battles in proving the necessary elements for class certification, particularly when it comes to defining a theory of harm that can be proven by common evidence across the class. Last month, Judge Gibney of the Richmond Division of the Eastern District of Virginia dismissed one such data breach class action case for a more basic problem: the named plaintiffs could not demonstrate they had suffered any concrete injury sufficient to establish Article III standing at all, let alone damages that could be proven classwide. Holmes v. Elephant Ins. Co., No. 3:22cv487, 2023 WL 4183380 (E.D. Va. June 26, 2023).

In significant and hard-fought litigation, it is not uncommon for parties to reach a settlement that includes an agreement to jointly move the court to vacate earlier rulings on key motions in the case. For a settling plaintiff that lost the earlier ruling, vacatur can be important to preserve potential claims against other defendants. Likewise, vacatur of an adverse ruling against a defendant allows that defendant to contest the issue in future cases. For the party that prevailed on the motion, there is often little incentive to oppose an agreement to request vacatur if it is part of an otherwise favorable settlement agreement.

On June 12, the Richmond Division of the Federal Bar Association hosted a Lunch and Learn panel for chapter members, area practitioners, and special guests — the Honorable Mark R. Colombell and the Honorable Summer L. Speight, the Richmond Division’s newest magistrate judge sworn in earlier this year. With her appointment, Judge Speight returns to the Richmond Division, having begun her legal career there as a law clerk for the Honorable M. Hannah Lauck. Before receiving her appointment as a magistrate judge, Judge Speight served as a partner with McGuireWoods LLP in Richmond, VA. There, she counseled and represented employers in all aspects of employment-related litigation, traditional labor law, employee benefits, and ERISA litigation.

We recently posted about the seeking preliminary relief under the Rocket Docket’s procedures. A recent decision from Judge Alston in the Alexandria Division is a good example of the speed in which the court acts in the context of the unique circumstances of a private litigant seeking a preliminary injunction against the U.S. government. CACI, Inc. v. United States Navy, Civil Action No. 1:23CV478 (RDA/IDD), 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 88297 (E.D. Va. May 19, 2023).

The decision touches on a host of issues ranging from the law of trade secrets to the many procedural hurdles a party faces when asserting a claim against the government, while also illustrating how the fight over preliminary relief can, as a practical matter, be case dispositive.