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In a victory for health care institutions, the Illinois Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned a lower state appeals court and ruled that an exclusion in the state’s biometric law applies to health care workers.
The issue in Lucille Mosby et al. v. The Ingalls Memorial Hospital et al. was whether finger-scan information collected by health care providers from their employees falls within a health care exemption in the Biometric Information Privacy Act.
The plaintiff in the putative class action, Ms. Mosby, is a registered nurse at Ingalls Memorial in Harvey, Illinois, who said she used a medication dispensing system with a finger-scan authentication device to provide patient care.
Ms. Mosby alleged that defendant Becton, Dickinson and Co., a Franklin Lakes, New Jersey-based medical technology company, violated BIPA in collecting her biometric information. Ingalls is not a party in the case.
A state appeals court found that BIPA’s relevant provision excluded only patient information, not health care workers’, and that “if the legislature intended to exclude all health care workers from the Act’s protections, it would have done so.”
The Supreme Court disagreed, after a close analysis of BIPA’s language. “Pursuant to its plain language, (BIPA) excludes from its protections the biometric information of health care workers where that information is collected, used, or stored for health care treatment, payment or operations, as those functions are defined” by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the ruling said, in remanding the case for further proceedings.
Attorneys in the case did not respond to requests for comment.
In February, the state high court ruled in a 5-4 opinion in Latrina Cothron v. White Castle System Inc. that employers violated BIPA Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act each time they collected fingerprints from an employee and disclosed that biometric information without consent.
That followed its earlier unanimous decision that month in Tims vs. Black Horse Carriers Inc., in which it ruled that claims under BIPA are governed by a five-year, rather than a one-year, statute of limitations.
The law has led to thousands of court cases filed against employers, primarily in Illinois but elsewhere as well.