// Supreme Court is hearing an appeal challenging a decision against Morrisons in the UK’s first data leak class action
// The grocer is hoping to overturn a ruling which gave the go-ahead for compensation claims by thousands of staff
// Affected staff had personal details were leaked on the internet in 2014
Morrisons is to urge the UK’s highest court to overturn a ruling which gave the go-ahead for compensation claims by thousands of staff whose personal details were leaked on the internet.
Supreme Court justices are hearing an appeal today that challenges a decision against the grocery giant in the first data leak class action in the UK.
The latest round of the litigation follows a blow for Morrisons at the Court of Appeal in October last year when three leading judges upheld an earlier High Court finding on the issue of liability.
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The appeal judges who heard the case were told by a QC representing Morrisons that it would be exposed to “compensation claims on a potentially vast scale” if the High Court decision was allowed to stand.
Lawyers for more than 9000 claimants have described the class action as a “classic David and Goliath case”.
Legal action was launched after a security breach in 2014 when Andrew Skelton, a senior internal auditor at the retailer’s Bradford headquarters, leaked the payroll data of around 100,000 employees.
The leaked information included their names, addresses, bank account details and salaries.
A group of former and current employees said this exposed them to the risk of identity theft and potential financial loss and that Morrisons was responsible for breaches of privacy, confidence and data protection laws.
They affected staff are seeking compensation for the upset and distress caused in a case with potential implications for every individual and business in the country.
Morrisons said it could not be held directly or vicariously liable for the criminal misuse of the data, and that any other conclusion would be grossly unjust.
However, a High Court judge ruled in 2017 that vicarious liability had been established.
Upholding that decision, the appeal judges said they agreed with the High Court judge that Morrisons was “vicariously liable for the torts committed by Mr Skelton against the claimants”.
In July 2015, Skelton was found guilty at Bradford Crown Court of fraud, securing unauthorised access to computer material and disclosing personal data and jailed for eight years.
At the time of the Court of Appeal ruling last year, a Morrisins spokesman said: “Morrisons has not been blamed by the courts for the way it protected colleagues’ data but they have found that we are responsible for the actions of that former employee, even though his criminal actions were targeted at the company and our colleagues.”
The spokesman added: “We believe we should not be held responsible so that’s why we will now appeal to the Supreme Court.”
In a statement issued before the Supreme Court proceedings, JMW Solicitors partner Nick McAleenan, who is representing the claimants, said: “This will be Morrisons’ second, and final, attempt to exonerate itself after being found legally responsible by the High Court and the Court of Appeal for a large-scale data breach, which affected tens of thousands of its staff.”