2019 Rising Star Honoree Austin Moore Profile by Law360

2019 Rising Star Honoree Austin Moore Profile by Law360

Law360 (October 3, 2019, 9:17 AM EDT) -- Stueve Siegel Hanson LLP's Austin Moore has played an integral role in helping consumers obtain favorable results and historic settlements in many of the nation's largest data breach class actions, including those against industry giants Equifax, Target and Anthem, earning him a place among five cybersecurity and privacy attorneys honored by Law360 as Rising  Stars.


Moore has spent the past few years helping those that have been impacted by some of the biggest data breaches in U.S. history — including those that have struck Target, Home Depot, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Marriott, and Quest Diagnostics navigate the legal system in order to recover their losses.

In terms of size and scope, the biggest matter that Moore has had on his plate has been the litigation brought against credit reporting giant Equifax in the wake of a cyberattack that exposed personal information belonging to more than 147 million individuals.

Moore assisted in the drafting of a 559-page consolidated complaint, which named 96 class representatives and asserted numerous common law and statutory claims under both state and federal law, and helped stave off Equifax's motion to ax the dispute, with a Georgia federal judge ruling in January that the consumers had sufficiently alleged actual, concrete injuries stemming from the breach to allow their negligence and state consumer protection act violation claims to move forward.

The decision reignited settlement talks, leading to Equifax agreeing to a landmark $700 million deal that received preliminary approval in July and requires the credit reporting agency to pay up to $425 million to compensate consumers affected by the breach.

"One challenging aspect of a case that size is the interplay between the parallel tracks of litigation and settlement," Moore recently told Law360. "We had to be aggressive in prosecuting the case and prevail on key legal issues early for the case to have any chance to resolve."


Shortly after joining Stueve Siegel in the summer of 2013, Moore received a call from a woman who told him that her bank account had been drained after doing some holiday shopping at Target.

The retail giant had just announced a data breach that compromised more than 40 million of its credit and debit cards used at its stores from late November through mid-December. Such incidents were not as prominent as they are now, and the disclosure was among the first major corporate hacks to go public.

After fielding the call, Moore started to take a deep dive into the cybersecurity and privacy practice area, only to find that relatively little case law and precedent existed on data breaches and similar issues. The opportunity to help develop the law and exercise his creative muscles drew Moore to the space and has seen him through his work on first the sprawling Target multidistrict litigation and on similar matters that have raised from practically every major data breach since.

"We are tasked with analyzing how issues arising from modern technology fit into legal claims that may go back centuries," Moore said. "Even though it's not always a clean fit, it presents an opportunity to make creative arguments and pursue novel legal theories in ways that will hopefully help the law adapt to the information age."


In such a dynamic practice area, Moore said that he wouldn't be surprised to see both the legal landscape and companies' approach to privacy shift over the next decade.

There are already early signs of consumer backlash against companies that fail to protect consumer data or use it in unintended ways and a growing market is beginning to emerge for businesses that value consumer privacy, according to Moore.

"Those companies will make a greater effort to differentiate themselves based on their data privacy practices, including encouraging consumers to actually read their terms of service," Moore said.

The steadily growing push for Congress to enact federal privacy and data security rules is also likely to reach its fever pitch sooner rather than later, Moore said, adding that the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation, which took effect in May 2018, is likely to provide a good framework for what national legislation in the U.S. could look like.

"Depending on whether private enforcement mechanisms are included, the nature of our practice could change because consumers will no longer have to rely on a patchwork of state statutes and common law to pursue relief," Moore added.


Moore began his legal career by working on the defense side for two years, an experience he credits with helping him build a valuable knowledge base and that he highly recommends to anyone considering consumer class action work.

Now on the plaintiffs' side, Moore said that his biggest driver is the opportunity "to stand up for people who have been taken advantage of and pursuing cases that will create a positive change."

"One benefit of the plaintiff's practice is we get to be highly selective of the cases we take, which allows us to represent clients with compelling stories and promote legal issues we feel strongly about," Moore said. "That coupled with the fact that our practice is contingency-fee based — meaning our financial interest in achieving a positive outcome is aligned with our client's — makes it easy to stay motivated."


Aside from his consumer class action work, Moore also represents victims of sexual abuse in civil cases brought against their perpetrators and other negligent parties.

His work in this area includes advocating for a woman who sued ride-sharing giant Uber after she was sexually assaulted by her driver and for victims of sexual abuse in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

In June, Moore obtained an $8.2 million verdict as trial counsel for a sexual assault victim who sued her assailant for civil assault and battery. The victim had to endure two years of hard-fought litigation and trial while

completing graduate school, and her courage in coming forward and seeing the case through drove the verdict, Moore said.

"I was extremely proud to have helped bring some degree of positive closure to her harrowing experience," Moore said.


While it's sometimes easy for young attorneys to get comfortable about some aspects of their skill set and lose the motivation to develop others, Moore advises against becoming complacent.

"Seek out new opportunities and don't be afraid to go outside your comfort zone," he said. "For example, if you're a talented writer but shy away from opportunities to take depositions or argue in court, you are limiting your ability to grow as an advocate. Volunteering for those experiences may cause more work and stress in the short term, but in the long run you will be a more complete lawyer and hold more value to your firm and clients."

— As told to Allison Grande

Law360's Rising Stars are attorneys under 40 whose legal accomplishments belie their age. A team of Law360 editors selected the 2019 Rising Stars winners after reviewing more than 1,300 submissions. Attorneys had to be under 40 years old as of April 30, 2019, in order to be considered for this year's award. This interview has been edited and condensed. The article was published by Law360 and can be viewed here.

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