Illinois District Court Rejects “Trio” Of BIPA Defenses in Denying Motion to Dismiss

By: Gerald L. Maatman, Jr., Jennifer A. Riley, and Tyler Z. Zmick

Duane Morris Takeaways: In Trio v. Turing Video, Inc., No. 21-CV-4409, 2022 WL 4466050 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 26, 2022), the Court issued yet another plaintiff-friendly decision under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”), putting businesses on notice that the statute can apply to technology used to screen individuals for purposes of preventing the spread of COVID-19.  The Court denied the three arguments raised in the Defendant’s motion to dismiss, and held that: (1) personal jurisdiction existed because the Defendant sent “biometric” devices to multiple Illinois-based customers; (2) the Plaintiff’s claims were not preempted by the Labor Management Relations Act; and (3) Plaintiff adequately alleged claims under BIPA. The ruling in Trio ought to be required reading for corporate counsel dealing with privacy class action litigation.

Background

Plaintiff alleged that Defendant Turing Video, Inc. sold “products integrated with artificial intelligence,” including the Turing Shield, a “kiosk that allows Turing’s customers to screen their employees for COVID-19.”  See Mem. Op. & Order at 2.  According to Plaintiff, the Turing Shield works by screening a user’s temperature through the device’s camera, thereby using its “artificial intelligence algorithm” to recognize the user based on his or her facial geometry, and detecting whether the user is wearing a protective mask.  Plaintiff also alleged that data collected through the Turing Shield was transmitted to third parties who host that data.

Plaintiff previously worked in Illinois for New Albertson’s, Inc. d/b/a Jewel-Osco, where she used the Turing Shield at the start of each workday as part of the store’s COVID-19 screening process.  Based on her use of the device, Plaintiff claimed that Turing violated the BIPA by: (i) failing to inform her that the Turing Shield would collect her biometric data, and (ii) disseminating her biometric data to third parties without her consent.

Turing moved to dismiss on three grounds, including: (1) that the Court lacked personal jurisdiction; (2) Plaintiff’s claims were preempted by the Labor Management Relations Act; and (3) Plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

The Court’s Decision

The Court denied Turing’s motion to dismiss on all three grounds.

Personal Jurisdiction

Turing argued that the Court lacked specific personal jurisdiction because Turing was a non-forum (i.e., California) resident that sold the devices used by Plaintiff to a non-party, Jewel-Osco (also a non-forum resident), and Jewel-Osco brought the devices into Illinois without Turing’s involvement.

The Court held that the evidence – which showed Turing had over 30 Illinois-based customers and had shipped Turing Shields into Illinois – established that Turing had the requisite minimum contacts with Illinois to establish personal jurisdiction.

Labor Management Relations Act Preemption

The Court next addressed Turing’s argument that Plaintiff’s claims were preempted by Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (the “LMRA”), which establishes federal jurisdiction over “suits for violations of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce.”  Courts typically interpret Section 301 as preempting state law claims that are “substantially dependent on analysis of a collective-bargaining agreement.”  Id. at 18.

Here, Plaintiff was represented by a union and subject to a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) while employed at Jewel-Osco.  Based on those facts, Turing claimed that resolving Plaintiff’s BIPA claims for alleged privacy invasions sustained through her work required the Court to interpret the CBA.  The Court disagreed. It held that Plaintiff’s claims were not preempted because the Court could resolve the claims without interpreting the CBA.

The Court recognized that the Seventh Circuit has held that federal law preempts BIPA claims brought by certain union-represented employees against their employers.  See Miller v. Southwest Airlines Co., 926 F.3d 898, 903 (7th Cir. 2019); Fernandez v. Kerry, Inc., 14 F.4th 644, 646-47 (7th Cir. 2021).  The Court distinguished those cases because Turing was not a party to the CBA, and “Turing’s obligations under BIPA stand wholly independent of whether Plaintiff’s union may have consented to Jewel-Osco . . . collecting and disseminating her biometric data.  In other words, resolution of the state law BIPA claims would not require this Court to interpret any [CBA], and instead depend upon the entirely unrelated question of whether Turing provided Plaintiff with the necessary disclosures and obtained from her the required written release before it collected and disseminated her biometric information.”  Mem. Op. & Order at 20-21.

Extraterritoriality & PREP Act Immunity

Finally, the Court rejected Turing’s arguments that: (i) Plaintiff failed to allege that Turing’s relevant conduct occurred in Illinois, and (ii) the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (the “PREP Act”) immunized Turing from BIPA liability.  Regarding extraterritoriality, the Court held that Plaintiff sufficiently alleged that Turing’s conduct occurred “primarily and substantially” in Illinois, thereby satisfying the “extraterritoriality doctrine.”  Id. at 25. Regarding PREP Act immunity, the Court noted that the PREP Act provides immunity from liability relating to the “use of a covered countermeasure” upon the declaration of a public health emergency by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.  The Court held that PREP Act immunity did not apply because the Food and Drug Administration had not approved the Turing Shield, meaning the device did not satisfy the definition of a “covered countermeasure.” Id. at 28.

Conclusion

Trio can be added to the list of recent plaintiff-friendly BIPA decisions, as it reinforces the growing consensus that multiple private entities can be subject to liability under the statute for what may seem like a single “violation.”

The case also raises a potential hurdle to asserting jurisdictional defenses to BIPA claims based on its holding that personal jurisdiction can exist even where the defendant does not send into Illinois the specific device used to collect a plaintiff’s “biometric” data.  Other courts, however, appear more willing to dismiss BIPA claims on personal jurisdiction grounds.  See, e.g., Gutierrez v. Wemagine.AI LLP, Case No. 21-CV-5702, ECF No. 32, Mem. Op. & Order at 1 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 7, 2022) (available here) (dismissing BIPA case for lack of personal jurisdiction despite plaintiffs’ allegation that defendant’s app “derives substantial revenue from nearly 5,000 Illinois-based users”).

 

California Dreaming For Employers:  U.S. Supreme Court Orders California State Court of Appeal To Reconsider Denial Of Arbitration In PAGA Case

By: Gerald L. Maatman, Jr., Jennifer A. Riley, and Rebecca S. Bjork 

Duane Morris Takeaways: On October 3, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari, reversed, and remanded a case seeking review of a motion to compel arbitration in a California Private Attorney General Act (“PAGA”) labor law case entitled Dolgen California, LLC v. Galarsa, No. 21-1444 (U.S. Order List, Oct. 3, 2022).  Granting Dollar General’s specific request, the Supreme Court ordered the California Court of Appeal to reconsider its decision affirming a trial court’s denial of the company’s motion to compel arbitration.  That court held that the waiver of representative actions in the plaintiff’s arbitration agreement was unenforceable under California law.  This is only one of several cases pending in California courts involving arbitration agreements that waive an employee’s right to bring a representative action under the PAGA that are being revisited in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v Moriana (No. 20-1573, June 15, 2022).  As a result, employers will soon have a better understanding of how PAGA representative action waivers will be interpreted in California within the now-controlling framework of the Federal Arbitration Act.

The Holding In Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana

Earlier this year, on June 15, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its long-awaited ruling in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana. Companies with California-based workforces watched the case closely because it represented an opportunity to clarify the extent to which a court-made rule established by the California Supreme Court back in 2014 could co-exist with the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”).  The FAA has long been found to favor the enforcement of arbitration agreements, including waivers of class and other representative claims.  But the California Supreme Court’s decision made it impossible for class waivers to be enforceable under state law as a result of its decision in Iskanian v. CLS Transp. Los Angeles, LLC, 59 Cal. 4th 348, 387-88 (2014) (holding that a “PAGA claim lies outside the [FAA]’s coverage because it is not a dispute between an employer and an employee arising out of their contractual relationship,” but is instead “a dispute between an employer and the state”).

In a complex and lengthy opinion, the Supreme Court held in Viking River that “the FAA preempts the rule of Iskanian insofar as it precludes division of PAGA actions into individual and non-individual claims through an agreement to arbitrate.”  (Slip Op. at 20.)  “This prohibition on contractual division of PAGA actions into constituent claims unduly circumscribes the freedom of parties to determine ‘the issues subject to arbitration’ and ‘the rules by which they will arbitrate,’ and does so in a way that violates the fundamental principle that ‘arbitration is a matter of consent[.]’”  (Id. at 18 (citations omitted).)  In short, representative PAGA claims can now be subject to waiver in an arbitration agreement because “state law cannot condition the enforceability of an arbitration agreement on the availability of a procedural mechanism that would permit a party to expand the scope of the arbitration by introducing claims that the parties did not jointly agree to arbitrate.”  (Id.)

Dollar General’s Petition For Certiorari

Dollar General filed a petition for certiorari while Viking River was pending, expressly asking the Supreme Court to hold the petition pending a decision in that case.  It requested that once Viking River was decided, the Supreme Court should at that time grant Dollar General’s petition, vacate the California Court of Appeal decision below, and remand the case to that court for reconsideration in light of Viking River (known to Supreme Court practitioners as a “GVR” order). The facts in the Dollar General case are strikingly similar to those at issue in Viking River, and the company’s petition described the question presented as “Does the FAA require enforcement of a bilateral arbitration agreement providing that an employee cannot assert representative claims, including under PAGA?”

The U.S. Supreme Court’s GVR Order

On October 3, 2022, the Supreme Court did what Dollar General expressly asked it to do.  (See Order List, Oct. 3, 2022.)

As is typical with GVR orders, there is no explanation of the reasoning behind the order, except that the California Court of Appeal is instructed to apply the reasoning of Viking River on remand.  The California Court of Appeal now will soon reconsider its affirmation of the trial court’s denial of Dollar General’s motion to compel the plaintiff’s claim to an individual, non-representative arbitration proceeding.

Implications For Employers

Employers have long known that if they have operations in California, special attention must be paid to state law provisions that impose restrictions on employment practices unlike those in any other state.  Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the FAA preempts the court-made rule of Iskanian that precluded splitting representative PAGA claims from individual claims, it is likely that California courts will modify their enforcement of representative action waivers in arbitration agreements.  But because this is California, wary employers would be wise to stay tuned for further developments in this rapidly changing area of the law.

 

© 2009- Duane Morris LLP. Duane Morris is a registered service mark of Duane Morris LLP.

The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

Proudly powered by WordPress