BNSF railway reaches $75 million settlement in landmark Illinois biometrics privacy case

BNSF Railway settles Illinois biometrics case for $75 million, down from $228 million, involving 45,000 truck drivers alleging fingerprint scans without proper consent, setting a precedent for companies and their compliance with the Illinois biometric privacy act.

 Spiral, Coil

BNSF Railway Co. has reached a $75 million settlement in an Illinois biometrics privacy case, cutting down an initial $228 million penalty imposed by a jury.

The case refers to a lawsuit filed by 45,000 truck drivers who argued that BNSF scanned their fingerprints without proper notification and consent, thus violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). Initially, a jury awarded the plaintiffs $228 million based on the number of class members and the statutory fine for a reckless violation. However, the judge ordered a second trial for damages.

The settlement follows a precedent-setting Illinois Supreme Court decision in Cothron v. White Castle System Inc., asserting that BIPA penalties are discretionary. BNSF argued that the penalty could be as low as zero, citing no harm suffered by plaintiffs. The settlement’s terms provide satisfaction for both sides, as they reduce the imposed penalty and resolve the complex issue of the consequences of BIPA violation. Class members are set to receive approximately $1,000 each, surpassing compensation in other BIPA class actions. This resolution sets a noteworthy benchmark in biometric privacy litigation, shaping the landscape for future cases and establishing guidelines for fair compensation in BIPA violations.

Why does it matter?

The agreement establishes a Settlement Fund for cash compensation to the Settlement Class Members, exceeding fairness standards. This case marks the first trial for a Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) case, grappling with determining the appropriate monetary penalty for a company violating the BIPA law.