Georgia man sues Tampa-based Checkers & Rally's parent over May data breach

In a federal lawsuit filed in Florida's middle district, Georgia resident Breandan Cotter accused the chain of having inadequate data security practices.
A Georgia man is suing Checkers Drive-In Restaurants Inc. over a data breach the Tampa-based company announced in late May. Pictured is a Checkers location in Pinellas Park in 2017. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times (2017)]
A Georgia man is suing Checkers Drive-In Restaurants Inc. over a data breach the Tampa-based company announced in late May. Pictured is a Checkers location in Pinellas Park in 2017. [SCOTT KEELER | Times (2017)]
Published June 14

TAMPA — A Georgia man is suing Checkers Drive-In Restaurants Inc. over a data breach the Tampa-based company announced in late May.

In a federal lawsuit filed in Florida's middle district, Georgia resident Breandan Cotter accused the chain of having inadequate data security practices, arguing that the chain could have taken steps to prevent the breach.

"This kind of malware has been found at a ton of similarly situated restaurants and retail locations," said Patrick Barthle, an attorney for Cotter. "They were certainly on notice that they should be looking out for this particular vector of attack."

Checkers, which operates Checkers and Rally’s drive in restaurants, announced a data breach in late May. It said malware on some of the company's card reader systems had compromised an unknown number of customers' payment card information, including card numbers, verification codes, expiration dates and cardholder names.

About 15 percent of the company’s restaurants — 102 locations across 20 states — were affected. The breach affected 15 locations in Florida, 10 of them around Tampa Bay.

Most of the restaurants were affected between 2018 and April 2019, when the malware was discovered. Some were breached as early as 2016.

Contacted through a spokeswoman, Checkers did not respond to a request for comment as of late Friday afternoon.

Cotter argues that Checkers, especially considering its size and the volume of transactions it processes, should have been more vigilant in testing its systems for vulnerabilities and ensuring it properly manages the data it collects.

The chain's approach to data security, the lawsuit said, "was lackadaisical, cavalier, reckless or at the very least, negligent."

Harm to the consumers affected by the breach, the lawsuit says, goes beyond having to get a new payment card because of the potential for fraud, identity theft and the length of time it takes for consumers to fully resolve any issues their information being stolen creates.

Cotter is seeking a jury trial and damages. His suit also seeks to compel Checkers to implement proper data security practices.

Check here to see if your visit to a Checkers or Rally's location fell during a suspected breach period. Checkers recommends that all customers who may have been affected check their recent payment card statements and report any issues to the Federal Trade Commission. For more information from Checkers, visit their disclosure on the incident here or call

Contact Malena Carollo at mcarollo@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2249. Follow .

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