Bradford-based supermarket giant Morrisons on Wednesday won a UK Supreme Court victory which brings to an end a fight for compensation by thousands of its staff whose personal details were posted on the internet by a former employee.
The court found that Morrisons as an employer was not “vicariously liable” for a data breach.
Morrisons had faced compensation claims from over 9,000 former and current employees over the incident.
London’s High Court in 2107 found Morrisons was liable for the 2014 theft and publication of the data by finance worker Andrew Skelton.
But that ruling, which had also been backed by the Court of Appeal, was overturned on Wednesday by the UK’s Supreme Court.
One of the Supreme Court judges Robert Reed said in a written judgement that Skelton’s wrongful conduct “was not so closely connected with acts which he was authorised to do” for Morrisons to be judged liable for his actions.
“The circumstances in which Skelton committed wrongs against the claimants were not such as to result in the imposition of vicarious liability upon his employer,” wrote Reed.
“Morrisons cannot therefore be held liable for Skelton’s conduct.”
Morrisons said in a statement: “The theft of data happened because a single employee with legitimate authority to hold the data, also held a secret and wholly unreasonable grudge against Morrisons and wanted to hurt the company and our colleagues.
“We are pleased that the Supreme Court has agreed that Morrisons should not be held vicariously liable for his actions when he was acting alone, to his own criminal plan and he’s been found guilty of this crime and spent time in jail.
“A court has already found that Morrisons was not responsible for any direct wrongdoing in respect of this data theft.
“We also know that many colleagues appreciated the way we got the data taken down quickly, provided protection for their bank accounts and reassured them that they would not, in any circumstances, be financially disadvantaged.
“In fact, we’ve seen absolutely no evidence of anyone suffering any direct financial loss.”