Appeal by Morrisons against liability in mass data leak has been heard by the Supreme Court
The two-day Supreme Court appeal by Morrisons challenging Mr Justice Langstaff’s 2017 Judgment on vicarious liability against it in respect of its 2014 payroll data leak concluded on Thursday 7 November 2019. The leak was intentionally carried out by a disgruntled employee who sent Morrisons’ payroll data of 99,998 employees to local newspapers and uploaded it onto a file sharing website. In October 2018 the Court of Appeal upheld Langstaff J’s decision in favour of the claimant employees. The claimant cohort now stands at over 9,000.
The Supreme Court heard argument in a packed Court 1 as to (i) whether the Data Protection Act 1998 excluded the application of vicarious liability to a breach of that Act or for misuse of private information or breach of confidence; and (ii) whether the Court of Appeal erred in concluding that the leak was perpetrated “in the course of” the errant employee’s employment so leading to the finding of vicarious liability.
Lord Pannick QC was brought in by Morrisons to argue the appeal. Jonathan Barnes and Victoria Jolliffe of 5RB appeared for the Claimants/Respondents as they had done at trial and in the Court of Appeal instructed by JMW Solicitors LLP.
The Supreme Court’s footage of the oral argument can be found at https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/uksc-2018-0213.html. Morrisons’ submissions run for most of the first day with the Claimants responding at the end of that day and during the second morning session.
In bringing the hearing to a close the President Lady Hale commented that alongside all the interesting work done by the Supreme Court this case holds a particular fascination. Judgment will be given in due course.