Lawsuits against Community Health Systems combined

Five class-action lawsuits against Community Health Systems after a data breach in 2014 have been combined to streamline the legal process.

The health system based in Franklin, Tenn., reported a data breach in August 2014 that affected 4.5 million people. The organization, which runs 206 hospitals in 28 states, reported that Chinese hackers used malware called "Heartbleed" to access patients' names, addresses, birth dates, telephone numbers and Social Security numbers.

Lawsuits were subsequently filed in Pennsylvania, Alabama, Mississippi, New Mexico and West Virginia. Combining all the lawsuits will eliminate duplicate discovery processes, prevent inconsistent pre-trial rulings on class certification and pool the resources of the plaintiffs and their attorneys, according to the report.

Community Health Systems has been in legal trouble in the last year over other issues as well. The company settled a whistleblower Department of Justice investigation into wrongfully classified Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare claims with an $98.15 million payment in August 2014. It drew from $102 million legal fee fund to pay for the litigation transactions.

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