High Court to rule in Morrisons payroll data leak case

Morrisons 430

More than 5,500 employees who brought a payroll data leak class action lawsuit against retail organisation Morrisons will see the trial progress to the High Court in London this week.

The two-week High Court trial, which commenced on Monday 9 October 2017, is based on a class action lawsuit brought by 5,518 current and former Morrisons employees, who are seeking compensation after a payroll data leak in 2014 led to nearly 100,000 employees’ personal information being posted on the internet. This included staff members’ bank details, salary, national insurance information, addresses and phone numbers.

The case, which is the first data leak class action case in the UK, is set to determine whether Morrisons is liable for the data leak. The claimants argue that the retail organisation failed to prevent the leak, therefore exposing staff to the risk of identity theft and potential financial losses. The claimants further allege that Morrisons was ultimately legally responsible for breaches of privacy, confidence and data protection laws.

Morrisons denies all legal liability in this instance.

The claimants are pursuing a claim for damages, following a Group Litigation Order provided by the High Court in 2015. If the High Court decision rules in favour of the claimants, then a further trial will be scheduled to assess the level of compensation for affected former and current staff.

The lawsuit originated from the conviction of Andrew Skelton, a former senior internal auditor at Morrisons. At Skelton’s 2015 trial, the Bradford Crown Court heard that the former employee held a grudge against the organisation after he received disciplinary action for using Morrisons’ mail room to operate an eBay business. He therefore leaked employees’ personal data online, also alerting newspapers and websites. Skelton was jailed for eight years for fraud, securing unauthorised access to computer material and disclosing personal data.

At the time of the incident, Morrisons removed published personal information and offered identity theft protection and compensation to anyone who suffered fraud as a result of the leak. Morrisons incurred costs of £2 million due to the fall out.

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Nick McAleenan, partner and data privacy law specialist at JMW Solicitors, which is representing the claimants, said: “At the trial, the court will decide whether Morrisons bears any legal responsibility for the misuse and disclosure of the payroll information of the many thousands of people bringing claims in this case.”

Morrisons declined to comment at this time.