Vidal-Hall v Google: Milestone Court of Appeal Judgment

March 27, 2015

In Google Inc v Vidal-Hall & Ors [2015] EWCA Civ 311, the Court of Appeal has widened the scope of actions relating to privacy and has made claims for damages under the Data Protection Act 1998 much easier.

The Court had to consider two important issues of law: (i) whether the cause of action for misuse of private information is a tort and (ii) whether the meaning of damage in the DPA, s 13 permitted a claim for compensation where there was no pecuniary loss. Their lordships were against Google on both points (and the various minor points raised) and ruled that there such a cause of action was a tort and that compensation could be paid without proof of such loss.

The first question was a crucial preliminary point because it affected whether it was possible to serve the proceedings outside the jurisdiction (ie on Google in its US home). The second question has a considerable impact on data protection claims but the Court’s approach to the interpretation of s 13 of the DPA is also of interest; disapplying s 13(2) was deemed proper because it conflicts with the rights guaranteed by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

It should however be noted that this appeal was on preliminary issues, wide-ranging though they are. A full trial and probable subsequent appeal (or appeals) may lead to a different outcome.

A fuller account of the case with analysis of its impact will follow. In the meantime readers are referred to the full judgment here and to the links here.