In the latest Weekly Wright Report:
- Biometric Data Law Update
Biometric Data Law Update
In the May 18, 2022 article published in the Weekly Wright Report entitled Employers Beware: The Use of Biometric Technology Comes with Some Risks, it was stated that the consequences for failing to comply with the various laws applicable to the collection by employers of Biometric Data could be devastating. This week, that assertion was strongly supported by a jury verdict that came out of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, wherein a federal jury returned a verdict resulting in a Two Hundred Twenty-eight Million Dollar ($228,000,000) judgment for violations of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).
The jury found that the defendant, BNSF Railway Company, recklessly and/or willfully violated BIPA on 45,600 occasions when it took the fingerprints of truckers or other visitors to its rail yards for security and records purposes without properly complying with requirements of the Illinois act. The lawsuit was a class action suit originally filed in state court in Illinois that was subsequently removed to the United States District Court in 2019.
The Amended Complaint filed with the federal court claimed $5,000 for each reckless and/or willful violation of BIPA and $1,000 for each negligent violation.
The verdict is considered to be the first jury verdict arising out of BIPA claims in Illinois. The jury found that the defendant railway company either recklessly or willfully violated BIPA on 45,600 occasions (one violation for each member of the class) at $5,000 per violation, which resulted in the mathematical calculation by the Court of a $228,000,000 verdict.
The defendant’s violations of BIPA included its failure to give the truck drivers advance notice that it was collecting fingerprint data on persons entering its facilities, the purpose for doing so and also for its failure to properly disclose to the visitors/drivers neither its retention nor destruction policies for the biometric data it was collecting.
The class action involved four railway yards owned or operated by the defendant and the injuries/violations occurred over a five-year period. How the judgment awarded is to be distributed among the class members is to be determined at a later time. The defendant, BNSF Railway Company has indicated that it will appeal the verdict. The outcomes of other litigation presently pending on appeal in Illinois potentially could affect some aspects of this award.
Case name: Richard Rogers, et al. v. BNSF Railway Company, 1:19-cv-03083, United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
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