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3 Takeaways From The First BIPA Verdict

October 13, 2022

A Chicago federal jury's finding that BNSF Railway violated Illinois' landmark Biometric Information Privacy Act in the first such case to go to trial underscores the urgency for employers and companies to comply with the statute, and will likely lead to appellate battles over a company's liability for third-party vendors.

On Wednesday, jurors handed a win to a class of more than 44,000 truck drivers and served up $228 million in damages when they found in favor of lead plaintiff Richard Rogers. Rogers claimed BNSF unlawfully scanned his and other drivers' fingerprints for identity verification purposes without written informed permission or notice while he visited BNSF rail yards to pick up and drop off loads, in violation of BIPA.

Melanie Chico, co-lead of the BIPA practice team at Dykema Gossett PLLC, noted that despite all the evidence presented over a five-day trial, jurors came back with a decision in roughly an hour and found BNSF liable not just for negligent violations of the law but reckless or intentional ones, which provides for higher damages.

"They obviously came to an agreement quickly," she said.

But that conclusion, or how fast it came, was no shock to the plaintiffs bar, according to attorneys who represent clients bringing these kinds of suits.

"An important thing about this verdict is that it really confirms that people care about privacy. Privacy matters and protecting privacy matters," said David Neiman, a partner at Romanucci & Blandin LLC.

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