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Jury awards $228 million verdict against BNSF Railway in BIPA case


In what is believed to be the first jury verdict on the issue, a federal jury last week awarded a $228 million verdict in favor of the plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit filed against BNSF Railway Co. under the Illinois Biometric Privacy Act.

In last Wednesday’s verdict in Richard Rogers v. BNSF Railway Co., a jury in U.S. District Court in Chicago found that the railroad had committed 45,600 “reckless or intentional” violations of the BIPA Act. The complaint in the case was filed in April 2019, and the class was certified in March 2022.

BIPA provides for penalties of up to $5,000 for every reckless or intentional violation and $1,000 for every negligent violation.

Plaintiffs counsel was directed by the court to file a written proposal for distribution by Friday, and a telephone status hearing is set for Oct. 26. The court said in a ruling it “remains willing to re-initiate settlement discussions.”

Mr. Rogers was among truck drivers who visited BNSF facilities and were required by the railroad to provide their biometric identifiers in the form of fingerprints and related biometric information, according to court papers in the case.

His lawsuit alleges that BNSF violated BIPA by failing to obtain a written release from him before gathering the biometric information; provide a written disclosure regarding its use of biometric information and the purpose or duration of its use; obtain his consent before disseminating his biometric information to “technology vendors”; and make publicly available a retention and destruction schedule.

In his ruling approving certification of the class, which is estimated to total 44,149 members, Judge Mathew F. Kennelly said the lawsuit satisfies the necessary requirements, including “numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy of representation.”

The jury took only an hour to deliberate before issuing its verdict, according to a report.

Attorneys in the case did not respond to requests for comment.