On May 1, 2023, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a putative class action alleging violations of the Illinois Genetic Information Privacy Act (GIPA) against the asset management firm Blackstone Inc. over its all-stock acquisition of the genealogy company Ancestry.com. In a case of first impression, the Seventh Circuit held that a “run-of-the-mill corporate acquisition, without more alleged about that transaction,” does not result in a compulsory disclosure of genetic information in violation of Section 30 of GIPA.
GIPA provides that “genetic testing and information derived from genetic testing is confidential and privileged and may be released only to the individual tested and to persons specifically authorized, in writing in accordance with [statutory requirements], by that individual to receive the information.” 410 ILCS 513/15. Section 30 of the act provides that no person or company “may disclose or be compelled to disclose the identity of any person upon whom a genetic test is performed or the results of a genetic test in a manner that permits identification of the subject of the test.” Id. at 30(a). Under Section 40, “[a]ny person aggrieved by a violation of this Act shall have a right of action.” Id. at 40.
Lead plaintiffs Carolyn Bridges and Raymond Cunningham purchased DNA testing products from Ancestry.com and submitted their saliva samples. Ancestry processed and stored plaintiffs’ genetic information with other personal identifying information, such as their names, emails and home addresses.
In December 2020, Blackstone acquired Ancestry for $4.7 billion in an all-stock acquisition. In July 2021, Bridges and Cunningham filed a putative class action in Illinois state court alleging that the acquisition compelled the disclosure of their genetic information in violation of Section 30. Blackstone removed the case to federal court and then moved to dismiss. The district court dismissed the complaint on the grounds that a corporate acquisition of a company that stored genetic information, without more, did not result in a compulsory disclosure of genetic information in violation of GIPA. Plaintiffs appealed.
You can read the details of this court case at: https://tinyurl.com/23x36sav.