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Rasmusson v. Chisago County

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

January 10, 2014

Anne Marie Rasmusson, Plaintiff,
v.
Chisago County, et al., Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Jonathan A. Strauss, Lorenz F. Fett, Jr., Sonia Miller-Van Oort, and Kenneth H. Fukuda, Sapientia Law Group PLLC, Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of Plaintiff.

Margaret A. Skelton and Timothy A. Sullivan, Ratwik, Roszak & Maloney, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota, for Defendants Chisago County, Pine County, Jay Belisle, Blake Fjosne, Rebecca Lawrence, and Dan Vosika.

Philip G. Villaume and Lisa McLeod Lofquist, Villaume & Schiek, P.A., Bloomington, Minnesota, for Defendant Millicent Tompa.

OPINION

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MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

SUSAN RICHARD NELSON, United States District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court on Defendants Chisago County, Pine County, Jay Belisle, Blake Fjosne, and Rebecca Lawrence's Motion to Dismiss [Doc. No. 106]; Defendant Dan Vosika's Motion to Dismiss [Doc. No. 121]; and Defendant Millicent Tompa's [1] Motion to Dismiss or for Judgment on the Pleadings [Doc. No. 97]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants these motions.[2]

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Anne Marie Rasmusson (" Plaintiff" ) initially filed this action on March 12, 2012. (See Compl. [Doc. No. 1].) On March 15, 2013, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint (Third Revision) (" Amended Complaint" ) in which she added new parties, including Defendants Chisago County, Pine County, Jay Belisle, Blake Fjosne, Rebecca Lawrence, Dan Vosika (collectively, the " County Defendants" ), and Millicent Tompa. (First Amended Complaint (Third Revision) (" Am. Compl." ) ¶ ¶ 5-11, 13 [Doc. No. 90].) In Count I of her Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts a claim under the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (" DPPA" ), 18 U.S.C. § 2721, et seq., against all defendants. (Id. ¶ ¶ 95-112.) In Counts II and III, Plaintiff brings claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the individual defendants and the entity and supervisor defendants, respectively. (Id. ¶ ¶ 113-49.) And, in Count IV, Plaintiff asserts a claim for common law invasion of privacy against all defendants. (Id. ¶ ¶ 150-55.)

Plaintiff's claims are centered on allegations that law enforcement personnel viewed her private driver's license information in the Minnesota Department of

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Vehicle Services (" DVS" ) driver's license database without a legitimate purpose. (See id. ¶ ¶ 1, 34, 95-155.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that she " began having suspicions that law enforcement officers were taking an uncomfortable interest in her starting approximately in 2007" because " numerous officers who asked her for dates knew where she lived or what kind of car she drove." (Id. ¶ 37.) In addition, Plaintiff alleges that, on May 5, 2010, she was pulled over for a potential speeding violation and three other squad cars arrived and left without performing any law enforcement duties. (Id. ¶ 39.) Based on these suspicions and incidents, Plaintiff contacted the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (" DPS" ) and asked for the identity of officers who had run her name on the DVS database. (Id. ¶ 41.) On August 30, 2011, Plaintiff alleges that she learned from DPS that officers from 18 different departments and agencies had accessed her driver's license information since 2007. (Id. ¶ 42.) Plaintiff claims that, during discovery in this case, she learned that the defendants at issue in the present motions accessed her driver's license information without a permissible reason as follows:

Entity

Individual

Date accessed

Number of times

defendant

accessed

Chisago County

Jay Belisle

02/04/06

3

02/08/06

2

02/23/06

1

04/13/06

1

Pine County

Blake Fjosne

04/11/11

1

Rebecca Lawrence

07/11/06

1

Dan Vosika

11/16/06

2

11/22/06

1

12/07/06

1

Federal Bureau of

Millicent Tompa

06/15/06

1

Investigation

04/17/07

1

(Id. ¶ 53 & Ex. A.)

Plaintiff describes the driver's license information at issue in three paragraphs in her Amended Complaint. First, she alleges that the law enforcement officers accessed her " private personal and highly-restricted personal information from her State-issued driver's license including her home address, color photograph or image, and driver identification number." (Id. ¶ 35.) Later, she states that she " provided personal information to the DPS including her address, color photograph, date of birth, weight, height and eye color for the purpose of acquiring and utilizing a State of Minnesota driver's license." (Id. ¶ 96.) She also asserts that the DPS database included her driving record. (Id. ¶ 97.)

Defendants Pine County, Chisago County, Belisle, Fjosne, and Lawrence filed a partial motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint [Doc. No. 106] and a supporting memorandum [Doc. No. 108]. Defendant Vosika later joined in the motion [Doc. No. 121]. The County Defendants argue that the majority of Plaintiff's claims are barred by the applicable statutes of limitations, (see Defs. Pine County, Chisago County, Belisle, Fjosne, and Lawrence's Mem. of Law in Supp. of Partial Mot. to Dismiss (" County Defs.' Supp. Mem." ) at 5-17 [Doc. No. 108]); DPPA violations are not actionable through § 1983, (see id. at 17-19); the facts do not state the existence of an actionable violation

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of Plaintiff's constitutional rights enforceable through § 1983, (see id. at 19-27); § 1983 cannot be used to enforce violations of state law, (see id. at 27); and Plaintiff has failed to state a common law invasion of privacy claim, (see id. at 27-28). Plaintiff filed an opposition memorandum [Doc. No. 122], along with two affidavits and several exhibits [Doc. Nos. 123-24], and County Defendants filed a reply brief [Doc. No. 132].

In addition, Defendant Tompa filed a motion to dismiss or for judgment on the pleadings [Doc. No. 97] and a supporting memorandum [3] [Doc. No. 133]. She argues that she is entitled to qualified immunity from liability, (see Def. Tompa's Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss or for J. on the Pleadings (" Def. Tompa's Supp. Mem." ) at 10-14 [Doc. No. 133]); Plaintiff's DPPA and common law invasion of privacy claims are barred by the applicable statutes of limitations, (see id. at 14-19, 24-25); and Plaintiff has failed to state a common law invasion of privacy claim, (see id. at 26-27).[4] Plaintiff filed an opposition memorandum [Doc. No. 142] and an affidavit [Doc. No. 143], and Defendant Tompa filed a reply brief [Doc. No. 146]. Both the County Defendants' and Defendant Tompa's motions were heard on July 12, 2013 [Doc. No. 150].

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Defendant Tompa also moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c). When evaluating a motion to dismiss, the Court assumes the facts in the Complaint to be true and construes all reasonable inferences from those facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Morton v. Becker, 793 F.2d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1986). However, the Court need not accept as true wholly conclusory allegations, Hanten v. Sch. Dist. of Riverview Gardens, 183 F.3d 799, 805 (8th Cir. 1999), or legal conclusions Plaintiff draws from the facts pled. Westcott v. City of Omaha, 901 F.2d 1486, 1488 (8th Cir. 1990). In addition, the Court ordinarily does not consider matters outside the pleadings on a motion to dismiss. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). The Court may, however, consider exhibits attached

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to the complaint and documents that are necessarily embraced by the pleadings, Mattes v. ABC Plastics, Inc., 323 F.3d 695, 697 n.4 (8th Cir. 2003), and may also consider public records. Levy v. Ohl, 477 F.3d 988, 991 (8th Cir. 2007).[5]

To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain " enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). Although a complaint need not contain " detailed factual allegations," it must contain facts with enough specificity " to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. at 555. " Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements," will not pass muster. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). In sum, this standard " calls for enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of [the claim]." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. These same standards apply to a motion for judgment on the pleadings. Clemons v. Crawford, 585 F.3d 1119, 1124 (8th Cir. 2009); Gallagher v. City of Clayton, 699 F.3d 1013, 1016 (8th Cir. 2012).

B. The Claims

Plaintiff has failed to state a cognizable claim for relief in Counts II through IV of her Amended Complaint, and the applicable statute of limitations bars most of the claims asserted against the County Defendants and Defendant Tompa in Count I. The Court will address the claims in that order.

1. Section 1983 Claims

Counts II and III of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint state causes of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 113-49 [Doc. No. 90].) Section 1983 provides that:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State . . ., subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress . . . .

In Count II, Plaintiff alleges that the individual defendants in this lawsuit, acting under color of state law, violated her statutory rights under the DPPA, her constitutional rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, and her rights under the laws of the State of Minnesota. (See Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 115-22.) In Count III, Plaintiff alleges that the entity and supervisor defendants are liable for the individual defendants' custom and practice of improperly accessing information; their own failure ...


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