Stadler v Currys Group Ltd
Reference:  EWHC 160 (QB)
Court: High Court, Queen’s Bench Division
Judge: HHJ Lewis (sitting as a Judge of the High Court)
Date of judgment: 31 Jan 2022
Summary: Data protection – misuse of private information – breach of confidence – negligence – smart devices – Jameel – de minimis – allocation
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Gemma McNeil-Walsh (Defendant)
Instructing Solicitors: Irvings Law (Claimant); In-house legal department (Defendant)
The claimant, Mr Stadler (“C”), returned a smart TV to the defendant, Currys (“D”), for repair. D determined that the repair would be disproportionately costly and advised that a more proportionate route would be to write-off the smart TV and compensate C with a voucher for the purchase of a new television. D passed the smart TV on to a third-party company, and subsequently, a purchase in the sum of £3.49 was made through the smart TV using C’s Amazon Prime account.
C brought a claim for damages (including aggravated and exemplary damages) up to £5,000 for misuse of private information; breach of confidence; negligence; and breach of data protection law.
D applied to dismiss the claim on three grounds:
- that C’s claim disclosed no reasonable grounds for bringing a claim in any of the four causes of action and fell to be struck out;
- that the only damage was the ‘distress’ purportedly caused during the short period in which C realised his accounts had not been logged out, and as such the claim was ‘not worth the candle’ and fell to be struck out; and/or
- that the claim had no reasonable prospect of success and summary judgment should be granted upon it.
C argued that the facts in the case remained disputed and controversial such that they needed to be determined at trial.
Whether the claim should be struck out (and, if so, on what basis) and/or whether summary judgment should be granted upon it.
In a reserved judgment, HHJ Lewis:
- Struck out C’s claims in misuse of private information and breach of confidence. There was a fundamental defect in the claims, namely that D was not making use of the data or information that was the subject of the claim; it would be “artificial” to characterise the disposal of a smart TV as a misuse of the information itself .
- Struck out C’s claim in negligence. The only pecuniary loss suffered by C was the cost of the film purchased on the Amazon Prime account (£3.49) which had been refunded by D. C had not suffered any recoverable loss and did not have a complete cause of action in common law negligence .
- Struck out C’s claims for aggravated and exemplary damages, and an injunction, on the basis that they appeared wholly misconceived and without merit .
- Dismissed D’s application in respect of the data protection claim and transferred the matter to the County Court proportionately [45-46].
This case will be of interest to data protection law practitioners. The judgment joins a line of recent authority in which judges in the MAC List have made it clear that low-level data breach claims are not suitable for the High Court.
It is also interesting to note that although the judge recognised that Practice Direction 53B does not “technically” apply in the County Court, he also observed that parties to County Court actions (where the causes of action would be allocated to the MAC List if in the High Court) would be “well advised” to follow PD53B, regardless of whether or not they are required to do so.