Illinois Courts Largely Favor Coverage for BIPA Cases Under CGL Policies
Since Illinois passed its Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) in 2008, there has been a proliferation of class action lawsuits filed pursuant to the statute. BIPA generally bars private entities from collecting, capturing, purchasing, receiving, or otherwise obtaining a person’s biometric information without obtaining that person’s advance, informed consent (see 740 ILCS 14/15(b)), and grants a private right of action to individuals who are “aggrieved” by a violation of the statute, entitling them to recover liquidated or actual damages as well as attorneys’ fees and costs (see 740 ILCS 14/20).
The Illinois courts are sorting out the question of the availability of insurance coverage for such BIPA suits under Commercial General Liability (CGL) policies. Of course, the standard CGL definition of covered “personal and advertising injury” includes “oral or written publication of material that violates a person’s right of privacy.” In May of 2021, an Illinois Supreme Court case, West Bend Mutual Insurance Co. v. Krishna Schaumburg Tan, Inc., 183 N.E.3d 47 (2021), addressed the threshold question of whether BIPA claims fall within this basic definition. The court agreed that the gravamen of such claims is invasion of privacy, and that the purpose of the statute is to prevent such invasions. Krishna also rejected the insurer’s argument that the policyholder’s alleged conduct did not constitute an “oral or written publication” because biometric data was merely collected and given to a single third party (a service provider for the policyholder). The court ruled that even providing the information to one other party is a “publication”; the dissemination need not be widespread.
Read the full Policyholder Perspective blog post here.