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Plaintiff and defendant in biometric data privacy suit chase insurer for $10M

Suits against Walmart conclude and begin
Plaintiff and defendant in biometric data privacy suit chase insurer for $10M

The insurer of biometric workforce management company NOVAtime and its parent company Ascentis have a duty to defend them, and cover a $10 million portion of a $14.1 million Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) settlement, according to a motion by the lead plaintiff in the case reported by Law360.

The motion for a declaratory judgement was filed in Cook County court after NOVAtime and Ascentis assigned any contract or tort cause of action they could bring against their insurers to lead plaintiff Timothy Thome, according to the report. Their insurers, National Fire and Axis Insurance Co, respectively, denied coverage without seeking a judicial declaration that they were not obligated to cover the claim, which breached their duty to defend their clients, according to Thome.

The underlying case and settlement, which was approved by an Illinois federal judge earlier this year, alleged violations of BIPA’s informed consent requirement for biometrics use, and is brought on behalf of a class of more than 67,000 individuals. Thome and the class agreed not to collect $10 million of the $14.1 million agreed to, to pursue coverage from the insurers.

Meanwhile in another BIPA suit related to a biometric employee time and attendance system, a former dollar store employee is alleging a failure on the part of Family Dollar and Dollar Tree to follow Illinois’ informed consent requirements, according to another Law360 article.

Walmart closes book on one biometric data suit, another opens

A $10 million settlement by Walmart in another employee biometric data privacy suit has been approved, Law360 reports.

The settlement, reached through arms-length negotiation and mediation, was fair and reasonable, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Pamela McLean Meyerson ruled, noting that 46 percent of the class, or more than 10,000 current and former Walmart employees, have submitted claims already.

In his motion to approve the settlement, lead plaintiff Ethan Roach acknowledged that because Walmart had stopped using the palm biometric time and attendance system and deleted user data prior to the suit being filed, the company had a viable defense against class certification. It was also unclear which Walmart employees used the biometric scans, and which used PIN codes, as the system accepted either.

The company is not out of the BIPA woods yet, however, as Law360 also writes that it violated BIPA by collecting, storing and processing voice biometrics for use on headsets worn by warehouse staff at its fulfillment centers.

Walmart says the system helps track inventory in real-time and prevent theft.

Workers at four or more Walmart distribution centers in Illinois were required to enroll voiceprints by reciting certain words, phrases and number combinations, according to the suit, filed by former employee Andrew Barton. The plaintiff alleges he was not provided with the necessary information on the purpose of the biometric data collection, and never consented to it.

Law360 also notes that the Illinois Appellate Court is hearing two cases that could determine whether the state’s “catch-all” five-year statute of limitations applies to BIPA, or the shorter time-span associated with privacy or personal injury claims.

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