Lawyers acting on behalf of several thousand Morrisons’ employees, including more than 100 from Peterborough, say they will “vigorously contest” the retailer’s assertion that it wasn’t to blame for a data leak which led to their personal details being posted on the internet.
Bank, salary and National Insurance details of almost 100,000 members of staff were sent to newspapers and data sharing websites in what is believed to be the biggest such leak in British corporate history.
More than 5,000 employees are pursuing a claim for damages against Morrisons having had their application for a Group Litigation Order approved by the High Court in London last November.
Nick McAleenan, a Data Privacy lawyer at JMW Solicitors who is representing the group, has confirmed that Morrisons has now filed a formal defence to the claim in which it denied any liability for the leak.
In addition, Mr McAleenan said that the retailer has not accepted that staff have suffered any distress as a result of having their details leaked.
“During the trial of the individual who leaked the material, Morrisons acknowledged the huge potential implications for staff as a result of what had happened, including identity theft and financial loss.
“This information was leaked by someone employed at the time by Morrisons. We believe that the retailer could and should have done more to prevent our clients’ details being circulated in this way.”
Morrisons’ defence is the latest stage in the process which began with the leaking of data relating to 99,998 employees by Andrew Skelton in March 2014.
Skelton, who had worked as a senior internal auditor at Morrisons’ head office, was subsequently jailed for eight years in July last year by a judge at Bradford Crown Court.
His trial heard that he developed a grudge having previously been suspected of dealing controlled drugs at work.
In December last year, Morrisons was awarded £170,000 in compensation from Skelton having made a legal claim for losses which it suffered.
Since, serving and former staff employed at Morrisons’ supermarkets or its Kiddicare, Farmers Boy and Woodhead subsidiaries lodged their application for a Group Litigation Order (GLO) last year, the number of individuals demanding compensation has more than doubled – from just over 2,000 to more than 5,000.
Mr McAleenan said that other past and present members of staff wishing to join the legal action would need to do so in the coming weeks.
“The High Court established a cut-off point of the 8th of April this year for any employee who wants to make a claim but the process of making them a part of the group action means that they must be formally included well in advance of that date.”
He added that a hearing to determine when a trial would take place was scheduled for mid-May.