Nearly 6000 current and former staff of retail giant Morrisons have signed up to join a combined lawsuit against the company following a massive data breach two years ago.
According to the law firm which is coordinating the litigation, 5965 current and former members of staff joined the group action ahead of the 8 April cutoff date last week.
JMW Solicitors, a law firm based in Manchester, is coordinating the lawsuit following a data breach in March 2014 which saw the details of 99,998 staff published on the internet and shared with media outlets.
The details were in a spreadsheet which contained names, bank details, salaries and National Insurance numbers.
The spreadsheet was leaked by Andrew Skelton, an internal auditor for Morrisons who had developed a grudge against the company after he was suspected of dealing controlled drugs at work. He was jailed at Bradford Crown Court in July 2015 for eight years.
The lawsuit alleges that staff suffered distress as a result of the leak.
In November 2015 the High Court approved a Group Litigation Order and set a deadline of 8 April for complainants to join the action.
Meanwhile in December 2015, Morrisons was awarded £170,000 in compensation from Skelton.
A spokesman for Morrisons told SCMagazineUK.com, “We are contesting this case and we not accepting liability for the actions of a rogue individual. We are not aware that anybody suffered a financial loss from this breach.”
Morrisons said it has provided fraud detection services and even offered to pay the taxi fare of any member of staff who wanted to go to their bank and change their accounts.
Nick McAleenan, a data privacy lawyer at JMW, said the firm will “vigorously contest” the case. “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,” said McAleenan.
He added: “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.”
A hearing will be held in mid-May to schedule a date for the trial to begin.