WM Morrison Supermarkets Plc v Various Claimants: SC 1 Apr 2020

A disgruntled senior employee had divulged on the internet personal details of several thousand employees. The claimants alleged that that had been a breach of the 1998 Act, and that the appellants were vicariously liable for that wrong.
Held: The appeal by Morrisons was allowed. The close connection test was answered by looking at what functions or ‘field of activities’ the employer had entrusted to the employee, and then ‘the court must decide whether there was sufficient connection between the position in which he was employed and his wrongful conduct to make it right for the employer to be held liable under the principle of social justice which goes back to Holt CJ’. The online disclosure had not been part of the employee’s field of activities, and it was wrong to hold the company vicariously liable.


Lady Hale, Lord Reed, Lord Kerr, Lord Hodge, Lord Lloyd-Jones


[2020] UKSC 12, [2020] IRLR 472, [2021] 1 All ER (Comm) 189, 2020 Rep LR 80, [2020] 2 WLR 941, [2020] WLR(D) 204, [2020] 4 All ER 1, [2020] AC 989, [2020] EMLR 19, [2020] ICR 874, UKSC 2018/0213


Bailii, Bailii Summary, WLRD, SC, SC Summary, SC Summary Video, SC 06 Nov 2019 am Video, SC 06 Nov 2109 pm Video, SC 07 Nov 2019 am Video


Data Protection Act 1998 4(4)


England and Wales


At QBDVarious Claimants v WM Morrisons Supermarket Plc QBD 1-Dec-2017
The defendant employer had had confidential information of many of its staff taken and disclosed by a rogue employee. The employees now sought compensation. The main issue was whether the company was directly or vicariously liable for the tort.
At CAWm Morrison Supermarkets Plc v Various Claimants CA 22-Oct-2018
Co vicariously liable for employee’s data breach
A member of the company’s staff had unlawfully disclosed personal details of many company employees. The data consisted of personal information of the defendant’s employees including their names, addresses, gender, dates of birth, phone numbers, . .
AppliedMohamud v WM Morrison Supermarkets plc SC 2-Mar-2016
The claimant had been assaulted and racially abused as he left a kiosk at the respondent’s petrol station by a member of staff. A manager had tried to dissuade the assailant, and the claim for damages against the supermarket had failed at first . .
CitedThe Catholic Child Welfare Society and Others v Various Claimants and The Institute of The Brothers of The Christian Schools and Others SC 21-Nov-2012
Law of vicarious liability is on the move
Former children at the children’s homes had sought damages for sexual and physical abuse. The court heard arguments as to the vicarious liability of the Society for abuse caused by a parish priest visiting the school. The Court of Appeal had found . .
CitedLister and Others v Hesley Hall Ltd HL 3-May-2001
A school board employed staff to manage a residential school for vulnerable children. The staff committed sexual abuse of the children. The school denied vicarious liability for the acts of the teachers.
Held: ‘Vicarious liability is legal . .
CitedDubai Aluminium Company Limited v Salaam and Others HL 5-Dec-2002
Partners Liable for Dishonest Act of Solicitor
A solicitor had been alleged to have acted dishonestly, having assisted in a fraudulent breach of trust by drafting certain documents. Contributions to the damages were sought from his partners.
Held: The acts complained of were so close to . .
CitedBernard v The Attorney General of Jamaica PC 7-Oct-2004
PC (Jamaica) The claimant had been queuing for some time to make an overseas phone call at the Post Office. Eventually his turn came, he picked up the phone and dialled. Suddenly a man intervened, announced . .

Cited by:

CitedBarclays Bank Plc v Various Claimants SC 1-Apr-2020
The Bank had employed a doctor to provide medical assessments as necessary. The doctor had used the opportunities presented to assault sexually many patients. The court was now asked whether the Bank was vicariously liable for the acts of this . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Vicarious Liability, Information

Updated: 16 August 2022; Ref: scu.649486