One of the more significant cases from 2021, will prove to be that of Lloyd v Google LLC  UKSC 50 in which Lord Leggatt giving the judgment of the Supreme Court dealt a hammer blow to the concept of representative actions and narrowed the category of data breach claims where a remedy can be sought by, requiring proof of damage by an individual claimant.
158. The judge took the view that, even if the legal foundation for the claim made in this action were sound, he should exercise the discretion conferred by CPR rule 19.6(2) by refusing to allow the claim to be continued as a representative action. He characterised the claim as “officious litigation, embarked upon on behalf of individuals who have not authorised it” and in which the main beneficiaries of any award of damages would be the funders and the lawyers. He thought that the representative claimant “should not be permitted to consume substantial resources in the pursuit of litigation on behalf of others who have little to gain from it, and have not authorised the pursuit of the claim, nor indicated any concern about the matters to be litigated”:  1 WLR 1265, paras 102-104. The Court of Appeal formed a very different view of the merits of the representative claim. They regarded the fact that the members of the represented class had not authorised the claim as an irrelevant factor, which the judge had wrongly taken into account, and considered that it was open to them to exercise the discretion afresh. They saw this litigation as the only way of obtaining a civil compensatory remedy for what, if proved, was a “wholesale and deliberate misuse of personal data without consent, undertaken with a view to commercial profit”: see  QB 747, para 86. In these circumstances the Court of Appeal took the view that, as a matter of discretion, the claim should be allowed to proceed.
159. It is unnecessary to decide whether the Court of Appeal was entitled to interfere with the judge’s discretionary ruling or whether it would be desirable for a commercially funded class action to be available on the facts alleged in this case. This is because, regardless of what view of it is taken, the claim has no real prospect of success. That in turn is because, in the way the claim has been framed in order to try to bring it as a representative action, the claimant seeks damages under section 13 of the DPA 1998 for each individual member of the represented class without attempting to show that any wrongful use was made by Google of personal data relating to that individual or that the individual suffered any material damage or distress as a result of a breach of the requirements of the Act by Google. For the reasons explained in this judgment, without proof of these matters, a claim for damages cannot succeed.
Although the effect of the Supreme Court’s decision has yet to be felt, data breach as an area of practice will continue to survive and thrive, as the world moves remorselessly from an analogue economy to a digital one. I have noticed a sharp uptick in the last couple of years in costs disputes arising from data breach claims.
Three particular points are of note and which illustrate key points underpinning all these claims: in most of them damages are usually modest, yet claims for costs are always made on the basis that these are complex cases, which warrant allocation to a costs bearing track or should be pursued in the High Court. This requires consideration both of the principles relevant to allocation and also the costs rules which apply when a case settles without allocation to track. The further point is that in publication and privacy claims, ATE insurance premiums remain recoverable in principle, as an additional liability from the opposing party to litigation.
Turning to allocation arguments, an interesting case is that of Johnson v Eastlight Community Homes  EWHC 3069 (QB) where a modestly valued data breach claim was issued in the High Court: the case was not struck out, but Master Thornett was critical of the notion that the claim needed to be issued in the High Court:
24.5 Everything about this case has all of the hallmarks of a Small Claim Track claim that should have been issued in the County Court and so allocated. The suggestion that this is a developing area of law or where, even if principle is established, requires elaborate and complex legal argument is unrealistic if not, at least arguably, opportunistic. Countless examples could be found daily in virtually every County Court in this jurisdiction where limited time and resources and the requirements of the overriding objective combine to oblige the pragmatic and proportionate application of legal principle. The lure of adopting a more elaborate and expensive approach just because the subject matter can so permit is simply unacceptable. Put bluntly, the garment must be cut according to the cloth. So, accordingly, is potentially complex law applied proportionately in lower value claims in a way compatible to the limited resources those cases justify. The only reason why the claim has been subject to detailed legal argument is because the Defendant is appropriately concerned to defend resolutely a claim brought in the High Court where the future costs and time to be incurred by a social housing client would always be grossly in excess of the matter in dispute and with little clear prospect of recovery even if successful. Clearly, the Defendant in raising such challenge also has to act proportionately. However, the Claimant can hardly complain if the Defendant’s response has been contextually proportionate to the very venue chosen by the Claimant in which to litigate.
24.6 Directions are therefore required for Allocation and transfer of this case. I indicated during argument that if the case were to proceed, I would allocate the claim myself before, as seemed inevitable, transferring it to the County Court. If the Claimant wishes to address the court further as to Allocation other than the Small Claims Track then she
Once allocated to the Small Claims track, costs recovery in any case is likely to be nugatory, and the lawyers enthusiasm for pursing such litigation is likely to be extinguished. In a sense, the case is won or lost at the allocation stage.
If a case is swiftly settled, for a sum of less than £10,000 and without additional remedies such as undertakings being provided, then arguments will arise as to whether the case would have been allocated to the Small Claims track with consequential costs consequences. Those arguments can be ventilated on detailed assessment.
Rule 46.13 provides
(1) Any costs orders made before a claim is allocated will not be affected by allocation.
(2) Where –
(a) claim is allocated to a track; and
(b) the court subsequently re-allocates that claim to a different track,
then unless the court orders otherwise, any special rules about costs applying-(i) to the first track, will apply to the claim up to the date of re-allocation; and
(ii) to the second track, will apply from the date of re-allocation.
(3) Where the court is assessing costs on the standard basis of a claim which concluded without being allocated to a track, it may restrict those costs to costs that would have been allowed on the track to which the claim would have been allocated if allocation had taken place.
It will be seen that the fact that a Part 36 offer has been made and accepted creating a deemed costs Order for costs to be assessed on the standard basis does not preclude the court from restricting those costs to the costs allowable on the track to which the case would have been allocated, had matters gone so far.
Rule 46.13(3) predicates that (i) if the court is satisfied that the claim would have been allocated to the Small Claims Track it can (ii) exercise its discretion to restrict the costs to Small Claim Track costs.
This in turn means that the parties will draw their arguments based on consideration of what is the “normal” track per rule 26.6(3) CPR for the case as put and whether consideration of the various factors in rule 26.8 CPR indicate that it might have found a home on another track.
The rule also provides an incentive for the parties to settle a case on the merits as quickly and efficiently as possible, without being overly concerned as to whether they should delay the settlement until after allocation in order to achieve clarity on the costs position.
The rule is an interesting evolution from the case law on costs in low value claims and is another preliminary Point of Dispute, which can have devastating consequences on a Bill of Costs despite the making of a deemed costs Order on a standard basis.
Turning to the issue of ATE insurance premiums, publication and privacy proceedings are defined to mean proceedings for
being compromised and lost. The causes of action relied upon are breach of confidence (“BoC”), misuse of private information (“MPI”), breach of the Data Protection Act 1998 (“DPA”), and common law negligence.
data”. Just before the hearing before me the Claimant undertook to discontinue his claims in respect of other alleged breaches of data protection principles.