Illinois Supreme Court Extends Statute of Limitations for Biometric Lawsuits
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The Illinois Supreme Court has issued a decision that strengthens the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act — one of the nation’s strictest laws regulating the collection and storage of biometrics.
Truckers with operations in the state could be impacted by the ruling.
The state high court’s action extends the statute of limitations for biometric lawsuits to five years, from what was widely held in lower courts to be one year.
“The ruling has significant ramifications regarding the exposure companies may face under BIPA,” trucking law firm Scopelitis, Garvin, Light, Hanson & Feary, P.C., said in a Feb. 3 law alert. “Today, the Illinois Supreme Court issued a decision in Tims v. Black Horse Carriers, Inc., holding that Illinois’ five-year catch-all statute of limitations applies to claims brought under BIPA. The decision resolves a split among lower courts about whether a one-year or five-year limitation applies to BIPA claims.”
Chip Andrewscavage, a partner in Indianapolis-based Scopelitis, said, “What the ruling means is that you can recover penalties dating back five years from the first time of the violations. It also increases the time that a plaintiff can recover, and it increases the exposure that companies face.”
Potential violations of the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act of 2008 recently have become a major emphasis of plaintiff attorneys. The law requires that businesses engaged in the collection, use and retention of biometric identifiers must inform employees, get their permission and ensure that records are secure.
What Are Biometric Identifiers?
Here are some examples:
- Voice prints
- Iris scans
- Full hand or facial geometry scans
The Illinois biometric law provides that any procedural violation allows “aggrieved” individuals to recover liquidated damages of $1,000 for each negligent violation and $5,000 for each reckless violation of the law. Those litigation damages can quickly mount in cases in which a company employee has been scanned on a daily basis for years. So far, several motor carriers and transportation technology providers have become targets of such lawsuits, Andrewscavage said.
In the trucking industry, it is motor carriers’ use of inward facing truck cab cameras, time clocks and biometric access to yards that seem to create the most common violations, Andrewscavage said.
Several motor carriers and transportation technology providers have become targets of such lawsuits in Illinois.
Are in-cab cameras a safety tool or a legal liability? A panel at #ATAmce22 offered several insights. https://t.co/PKtna3Q0Hv @TRUCKINGdotORG @ScopelitisLaw #trucking pic.twitter.com/grwdYBoLvv — @todaystrucking (@Todaystrucking) October 24, 2022
“We see these biometric bills being presented in state legislatures throughout the country,” Andrewscavage said. “Texas and Washington have a statute that is similar to BIPA in Illinois, but they don’t have a private right of action. So an individual can’t sue.”
California also has some biometric privacy laws, but they’re not as stringent as the Illinois law, Andrewscavage said.
“We’ve also seen other states up and down the East Coast, for example, New York and North Carolina, kick around these laws. But they haven’t been passed yet,” he added.
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In its decision, the Illinois Supreme Court said an employee does not need to be harmed to bring a claim.
“So your biometrics doesn’t have to be leaked to someone to get the penalties,” Andrewscavage said. “It feels like almost every Illinois company has been sued since then. There is just a flood of litigation over this.”
Under the statute, any scan of hand or facial geometry is potential fodder for a lawsuit, he added. The law pertains only to conduct in Illinois. However, a company based outside of Illinois, but has operations in Illinois, could face a lawsuit for violations that take place in Illinois.
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