In Aviva Insurance Ltd v David Oliver [2019] EWHC 2824 (Comm), Aviva Insurance Ltd (“Aviva”) brought a claim against David Oliver (the “Defendant”) based on the Defendant’s misuse of Aviva’s confidential policyholder information. Aviva’s claim included: (i) breach of confidence; (ii) inducing a breach of contract; and (iii) unlawful means conspiracy.

Aviva employed Kirstie Carruthers (the “Employee”) who was responsible for collating details of Aviva’s policyholders. The Employee sold this confidential information (e.g. policyholder’s name, policy number, vehicle registration number) to the Defendant, who proceeded to sell that data to third party claims management entities.

Judge Eyre QC, sitting in the Commercial Court (QBD), found in favour of Aviva on all three causes of action and awarded it the sum of £108,651.59 in respect of the cost of Aviva’s investigation and remediation actions.

Judge Eyre QC affirmed the decision in Coco v AN Clark (Engineers) Ltd [1968] 7 WLUK 2 which stated there were three key elements required to establish a breach of confidence: namely that (i) the information has “the necessary quality of confidence about it”; (ii) the information is imparted in circumstances importing an obligation of confidence; and (iii) there is unauthorised use of that information to the detriment of the party communicating it. The Defendant accepted that the information was confidential and it was found that the Defendant also had knowledge that he was obtaining the information improperly from the Employee. As such, the Defendant was subject to an obligation of confidence to Aviva and his subsequent sale of that information was an unauthorised breach of that obligation.

Judge Eyre QC found that an inducement to a breach of contract could be committed by a person who simply agreed to pay for material that was sold in breach of a contract, even if the offer originated from the person subject to the contract. It was found that the Defendant knew that the confidential information for which he was paying the Employee was obtained unlawfully from Aviva, and that this sale was in breach of her employment contract.

It was also held by Judge Eyre QC that the elements of unlawful means conspiracy included: (i) combined action; (ii) unlawful means as part of that action; and (iii) that an intention to injure the victim need not be the predominant purpose of that action (per Kuwait Oil Tanker Co SAK v Al Bader (No.3) [2000] 2 All E.R. (Comm) 271). Judge Eyre QC found that the Defendant knew the Employee was providing him with confidential information that she wrongly obtained from Aviva. The commercial bargain between the Defendant and the Employee was found to amount to a combined action using unlawful means and it was also held that the intent was to injure Aviva.