Consolidation Sought For Lawsuits Over Intel Processor Chip Security Risks

Amid a growing number of lawsuits filed over security flaws that exist in millions of Intel processor chips, a request has been filed to centralize and consolidate the federal litigation before one judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings. 

On January 2, a “patch” released for Intel processors was found to slow down consumers’ computers and other electronic devices. This programming fix was intended to close am Intel processor security gap, which could allow hackers to access a computer’s memory.

These two exploits are known as “Meltdown”, which allows access to things like passwords and other information by cutting between an operating system and an application; and “Spectre”, which causes applications to leak information between programs that are usually isolated from one another, making data easier to steal.

Both exploits are believed to be accessible in every Intel chip made, and could put most people’s private data at risk. Some experts estimate that almost every CPU manufactured in the last 10 to 20 years may be affected.

In an effort to fix these Intel chip problems, a number of companies have released automatic “updates” to computers, servers, cell phones and operating systems. However, these updates appear to cause the processing chips, the brains of computerized devices, to slow down anywhere from five to 30 percent.

Since news of the exploits and the patches began to spread, at least five Intel chip lawsuits have been filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide, alleging the company has violated warranty laws and state deceptive trade practice laws. That number is expected to increase significantly in the coming weeks and months.

On January 8, a group of plaintiffs filed a motion to transfer (PDF) with the Judicial Panel On Multidistrict Litigation (JPML), calling for all Intel processor security flaw lawsuits to be centralized before one judge in the Northern District of California, where Intel is headquartered, for pretrial proceedings.

“Each of the constituent Actions will require adjudication of whether Intel violated state deceptive trade practice statutes, warranty laws, and tort laws in its manufacturing, marketing, and sale of Processors containing the speculative execution security flaw,” the motion states. “Adjudicating these and other common issues in a single transferee district will benefit the parties and witnesses and promote judicial efficiency by allowing a single court to coordinate the pretrial proceedings governing claims with these issues.”

The motion also states that consolidation would prevent duplicative discovery and conflicting pretrial rulings by different judges.

If the JPML agrees to consolidate the cases into a multidistrict litigation (MDL), all pretrial proceedings would be handled by one judge, but the cases would remain individual lawsuits. If a settlement agreement is not reached, the cases would be transferred back to their originating districts for trial.

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