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Do-over for damages in $228M biometric data privacy suit, maybe not for the law itself

Do-over for damages in $228M biometric data privacy suit, maybe not for the law itself

BNSF Railway will get a chance to alter the $228 million awarded in a judgement of class action damages granted to truck drivers over violations of Illinois’ biometric data privacy law, with a new ruling that the jury should have discretion over the total.

The same decision that found each biometric scan potentially represents an actionable violation also found that damages are discretionary under the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act. Now Reuters reports that U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly, while upholding the verdict against BNSF in a response to motions filed by both the plaintiffs and defendants, has ruled that BNSF should be able to argue for a reduction in the damages.

When the jury decided in favor of the plaintiff, the range of penalties was expected to be anywhere from $44 million to over $800 million.

A status hearing to set a new trial date and discuss the possibility of a settlement is scheduled for July 7, 2023.

Business groups oppose legislation amendment

Illinois Senate Democrats are pushing back against resistance to BIPA reform from business groups, River Cities’ Reader reports, saying the proposal they made would have helped the business community avoid excessive litigation.

The Illinois Retail Merchants Association, the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce held a press conference to state their opposition to the proposal.

In a public radio talk-show appearance, Senate President Don Harmon said the “good-faith solution” was “very friendly to the business community that has been asking for these changes,” according to the Reader.

Some of the same groups, including the Manufacturer’s Association, had asked for legislative change following the accrual decision referred to above. The President of the Manufacturer’s Association said the proposed amendments would increase the number of trials.

Senate President Pro Tempore Bill Cunningham said the proposal would change the basis for accrual from the number of biometric scans to the number of employees affected, while increasing the baseline penalty from $1,000 per violation to $1,500. He also floated a theory that the opposition is based on an expectation that defense attorneys will be able to have BIPA overturned by the country’s Supreme Court.

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