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Hartford must defend the company in biometrics according to EPLI policy



A federal district court in Illinois ruled Tuesday that a Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. unit must defend a janitor company in biometric disputes under its liability policy.

U.S. District Court in Peoria, Illinois, cited language in Vonachen Services Inc .: handbook on holding the Hartford unit Twin City Fire Insurance Co. must defend the Peoria-based caretaker company in two alleged class-action lawsuits against it for violating the 2008 Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, according to the judgment in Twin City Fire Insurance Co. v. Vonachen Services Inc., et. al.

While other courts have ruled that policyholders can seek compensation under their commercial general liability insurance policies, this is the first to determine whether EPLI policies are applicable, according to the policyholder's lawyer in the case, who says the verdict is likely to have an impact.

However, the Court stated in its 48-page judgment that it is too early to rule that Twin City must also compensate Vonachen as there have been no underlying decisions in these cases.

BIPA requires the consent of employees and customers before collecting biometric information, including fingerprints.

Although there are comparable laws in other states, Illinois is to date apparently the only state whose legislation provides for a private right of appeal, which enables plaintiffs to sue a company for its infringement. The law provides for $ 1

,000 for each negligent offense and up to $ 5,000 for each intentional or reckless violation.

The judgment stated "there is a close conversation" about whether the underlying measures are within the EPLI coverage, "But any doubt about coverage must be interpreted in favor of the insured."

It says because the handbook requires that Vonachen uses its stated timing system "and Vonachen has been forced to comply with all laws related to that system, including BIPA, Twin City's obligation to defend has been triggered based on the alleged BIPA violation in the underlying complaint."

The court held

Plaintiff's Attorney John S. Vishneski III, a partner with Reed Smith III in Chicago, said the verdict was significant, saying that most or all of the decisions made "is in the CGL context, " including last year's Illinois Supreme Court judgment in West Bend Insurance Co. v Krishna Schaumburg Tan Inc. and Klaudia Sekura .

He said that the company's handbook provisions mentioned in the judgment "are a very common feature", and he anticipates that the decision will lead to more litigation from the complainant's group speaking lawyers.

A twin The city attorney had no comment.

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