Richmond v Selecta Systems Ltd  EWHC 1446 (Ch)
Mr Richmond was managed out of Selecta, the Defendant Company. Mr Richmond claimed that both parties had entered into a severance agreement; Selecta denied that. Mr Richmond outlined that as part of the severance agreement he had agreed to hand over his account passwords to enable Selecta to assure itself that his company mobile contained no confidential information or disparaging remarks about Selecta.
Selecta altered Mr Richmond’s security details in relation to his internet accounts for his AOL, Apples iTunes, LinkedIn and WhatsApp accounts preventing Mr Richmond from accessing Selecta’s confidential information from any other electronic devices. Mr Richmond was unable to access his own online accounts.
The court dismissed the claim for a breach of contract and held there was no binding severance agreement.
The court also held that Selecta owed Mr Richmond a duty of care and had breached it by altering his security details without his permission. Mr Richmond was awarded damages for the inconvenience caused and the loss of files which had not been backed up.
As an aside, the court also awarded Selecta the value of a company car, which Mr Richmond claimed he had been allowed to keep as a term of the alleged severance agreement.
Employees at Selecta were not prohibited from using company equipment for personal purposes. A term is usually implied in employment contracts to prohibit any use which would be detrimental to Selecta. In the modern commercial context, it will be rare that use by an employee of a company device for personal purposes will infringe such a term. Employers are best advised to include a term within employment contracts to eliminate such concerns within the practice.
Selecta’s managing director was not an IT expert, he was under a duty to seek further advice or discuss the matter with Mr Richmond if he felt the Selecta’s proprietary information was still vulnerable after his intervention. His actions had gone too far and breached the duty of care towards Mr Richmond.
Please do not hesitate to contact Inderjit Gill in our Dispute Resolution Team should you wish to discuss any matters in relation to the above article.
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