Thousands of Morrisons staff are due a payout after a court ruled that the supermarket was liable for a huge data leak.
Andrew Skelton, a senior internal auditor at the retailer's headquarters in Bradford, leaked the workers' payroll data, including names, addresses, bank account details and salaries, by posting it on the internet and sending it to newspapers.
After Justice Langstaff ruled in favour of liability on Friday, Nick McAleenan, of JMW Solicitors, said, "The High Court has ruled that Morrisons was legally responsible for the data leak".
A Morrisons spokesperson said the judge found that Morrisons was not at fault in the way it protected staff data but that the law holds it responsible for the actions of the former employee.
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The judge found Morrisons had provided "adequate and appropriate controls" and did not know or ought to have known that Skelton bore a grudge against the company and posed a threat.
However, the court went on to consider the issue of vicarious liability and determined that Morrisons was vicariously liable for the actions its employee.
'I reject, however, the arguments that the DPA upon a proper interpretation is such that no vicarious liability can be established, and that its terms are such as to exclude vicarious liability even in respect of actions for misuse of private information or breach of confidentiality'.
The case, which could have implications for every individual and business in the country, comes after the breach affecting 100,000 employees in 2014.
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Morrisons has been granted leave to appeal against the decision. We expect them to take responsibility when our information is not kept safe and secure.
'The consequences of this data leak were serious. A spokesman for Morrisons said it had worked to get the data taken down quickly, provided protection for affected colleagues and reassured them they would not be financially disadvantaged.
"The imposition of vicarious liability in this case would otherwise result in the untenable situation where the court was effectively realising Skelton's criminal objective of damaging Morrisons' interests in the most absolute fashion, and otherwise exposing Morrisons to a compensation burden of a grossly disproportionate order", she said. It created significant worry, stress and inconvenience for my clients. The company plans to do so as it believes it should not be held responsible. In fact, we are not aware that anybody suffered any direct financial loss, ' they said.
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