Who? Nick McAleenan, a partner in media and data privacy law at JMW Solicitors in Manchester.
Why is he in the news? He is representing 5,518 claimants in the UK’s first data leak group action case. This month the High Court allowed a compensation claim by thousands of staff at supermarket chain Morrisons and said the company should be found liable for the actions of a former staff member who stole personal data from swathes of employees before posting it online. In Various Claimants v Wm Morrisons Supermarket PLC, Mr Justice Langstaff said although Morrisons was not directly liable it was vicariously liable for the actions of the ex-employee.
Thoughts on the case: ‘It was excellent to receive such a positive judgment at the liability stage. The case shows that, at its heart, the law is not about protecting data or information – it is about protecting people. We entrust information about ourselves to businesses and organisations every day. We expect them to take responsibility when our information is not kept safe and secure. “Insiders” are responsible for the vast majority of data breaches, so the case is particularly important.’
Dealing with the media: ‘Morrisons is the first data breach group litigation action in the UK. We had lots of enquiries around the time of the group litigation order in 2015 and this month following judgment on liability. The court has not yet heard from the claimants’ witnesses in the case. I expect the media will be very interested to hear their evidence at the quantum trial in due course.’
Why become a lawyer: ‘My dad suggested it. Always listen to your dad! Litigation obviously has its own dynamics. I meet a lot of different characters from all sorts of backgrounds. Every day and every case is different.’
Career high: ‘Working on some of the “original” News of the World phone-hacking cases and super-injunction cases was really interesting. Also, Morrisons, because it’s a game-changer in terms of data privacy law.’
Career low: ‘Presiding over a mix-up in which a work experience student I was supposed to be looking after wound up sitting in the witness box… This was happily rectified just before the judge appeared.’