Data breach claims — is common sense prevailing?
Should even low level (and low value) data protection claims be issued out of the Media and Communications List (MACL) of the High Court?
We have covered the topical issue of low-level data breach claims in both our recent webinar and our update on the case of B v D Council . In B v D Council, Senior Master Fontaine transferred a low-value data claim from the High Court in London to the local county court, holding that the claim was very much at the lower end of the spectrum of complexity and importance and it was disproportionate for the claim to occupy the resources of the High Court. The claimant was ordered to pay the defendant’s costs of the contested application on the point.
Further support for this position has now arguably been provided by Mr Justice Warby, the Judge in Charge of the Media and Communications List (MACL) and a recent appointment to the Court of Appeal. The case of Ameyaw v PWC Ltd & Ors  is a long-running and complex claim involving allegations of, amongst other matters, libel, harassment, negligence and data protection. For the purposes of this update, the background facts are largely irrelevant. It suffices to say that there is a claim for damages under the Data Protection Act 1998 relating to an alleged failure to comply with a subject access request. This is the only element of the claim that survived the hearing before Mr Justice Warby such that it required further case management directions. It is this case management that is of particular interest. The judge held:
“I do not…consider that the High Court is even arguably the right forum for this claim which can only have the most modest value. The proportionate means of disposing of this claim is to transfer it to the County Court, for resolution (I would think) in the small claims track.” (paragraph 124).
This is a useful decision in the field of low-level data protection claims, an increasingly prevalent field of litigation post-GDPR. Such claims do not need to be issued out of the MACL of the High Court in London and to have this confirmed by the Judge in Charge of the List is important. Similarly, Mr Justice Warby’s indication that the claim is suitable for resolution in the small claims track is helpful. It will likely inform district judges in the county court when considering the appropriate track for such claims to proceed on, thereby controlling costs.
For further information on data breaches, compensation and costs, contact our data protection lawyers.