News & Reviews News Wire BNSF’s $228 million penalty in biometric privacy case thrown out

BNSF’s $228 million penalty in biometric privacy case thrown out

By Trains Staff | July 1, 2023

| Last updated on February 4, 2024

Federal judge upholds ruling railroad violated Illinois law, but orders new trial on damages

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Trucks and containers at intermodal yard
Trucks navigate the stacks of containers at BNSF Railway’s Logistics Park Chicago in Elwood, Ill., in August 2021. BNSF has won a new hearing over damages in a suit regarding the gathering of fingerprint information from truck drivers at its Chicago-area intermodal facilities. David Lassen

CHICAGO — A federal judge has ordered a new trial for BNSF Railway on damages in a case that found the railroad violated the privacy of truck drivers by collecting their fingerprints to access intermodal facilities.

That decision overturns the $228 million in damages originally awarded in the class action suit, which found BNSF had violated Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act, which limits the collection and use of fingerprints, retinal scans, and other data [see “BNSF ordered to pay $228 million …,” Trains News Wire, Oct. 13, 2022]. The original decision found BNSF guilty of recklessly or intentionally violating the law 45,600 times, and fined BNSF $5,000 for each violation.

Reuters reports that U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly upheld the verdict that BNSF had violated the law, but said damages were discretionary and BNSF is “entitled to have a jury determine the appropriate amount.”

Truck driver Richard Rogers filed suit over the need to use his fingerprints to access BNSF intermodal facilities in the Chicago area, and said the railroad failed to disclose the purpose of collecting fingerprints or to publish a date retention policy as required under the state law.

4 thoughts on “BNSF’s $228 million penalty in biometric privacy case thrown out

  1. R. Messera you are probably right the way juries hate corporate giants and the awards that they come up with. Hang on to your rear end BNSF.

  2. So I am kind of confused. The $228 million was based on the Illinois statue that set out the fine as $5k per violation. That would go to the state.

    Damages to the legal class who filed the lawsuit is a completely different monetary calculation. I would understand the request for a jury in this case.

    Something in this story doesn’t seem right.

    1. Nothing in this story seems right, John. For the truckers to collect they’d have to show they were harmed. Sounds like they’re due $1.00 each.

  3. Might want to be careful for what you ask for. A jury might be free to grant an even greater penalty.

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