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McDonough v. Al's Auto Sales, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

February 21, 2014

Johanna Beth McDonough, Plaintiff,
Al's Auto Sales, Inc.; Anoka County; City of Apple Valley; Benton County; City of Bloomington; City of Brooklyn Center; City of Brooklyn Park; City of Burnsville; Carver County; City of Coon Rapids; Dakota County Communications Center; City of Eagan; City of Elk River; City of Eveleth; City of Fergus Falls; Goodhue County; City of Hancock; Hennepin County; City of Hopkins; City of Isanti; City of Maple Grove; City of Minneapolis; Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board; City of Minnetonka; Morrison County; City of Mound; City of Mounds View; City of New Brighton; City of New Hope; City of New Prague; City of Northfield; City of Owatonna; Ramsey County; City of Redwood Falls; Renville County; Rice County; City of Richfield; City of Rochester; City of Roseville; Sherburne County; South Lake Minnetonka Police Department; City of South Saint Paul; City of St. Anthony; City of St. Paul; Stearns County; City of Wayzata; Wright County; Michael Campion, acting in his individual capacity as Commissioner of Public Safety; Ramona Dohman, acting in her individual capacity as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety; John and Jane Does (1-500) acting in their individual capacity as supervisors, officers, deputies, staff, investigators, employees or agents of the other law-enforcement agencies or Al's Auto Sales, Inc.; Department of Public Safety Does (1-30) acting in their individual capacity as officers, supervisors, staff, employees, independent contractors or agents of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety; and Entity Does (1-50 including cities, counties, municipalities and other entities sited in Minnesota and federal departments and agencies, Defendants.

Kenneth H. Fukuda, Esq., Lorenz F. Fett, Jr., Mark H. Zitzewitz, Esq., Sonia L. Miller-VanOort, Esq., Jonathan A. Strauss, Esq. and Sapientia Law Group PLLC, counsel for plaintiff.

Bryan D. Frantz, Esq. and Anoka County Attorney's Office, Jamie L. Guderian, Esq., Joseph E. Flynn, Esq. and Jardine, Logan & O'Brien PLLP, Susan M. Tindal, Esq., Jon K. Iverson, Esq., Stephanie A. Angolkar, Esq. and Iverson, Reuvers, Condon, Beth A. Stack, Esq., Toni A. Beitz, Esq., Daniel D. Kaczor, Esq. and Hennepin County Attorney's Office, Ann E. Walther, Esq., Karin E. Peterson, Esq. and Rice, Michels & Walther LLP, Kimberly R. Parker, Esq., Robert B. Roche, Esq. and Ramsey County Attorney's Office, Judith A. Hanson, Esq., St. Paul City Attorney, Oliver J. Larson, Esq., Minnesota Attorney General's Office, counsel for defendants.


DAVID S. DOTY, District Judge.

This matter is before the court upon the motions to dismiss by defendants[1] and the motions to sever by Hennepin County and Ramsey County. Based on a review of the file, record and proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, the court grants the motions to dismiss and denies as moot the motions to sever.


This privacy dispute arises out of defendants' access of the motor vehicle record of plaintiff Johanna Beth McDonough between 2006 and 2013. Compl. ¶ 2. McDonough asserts claims against numerous counties, cities and law enforcement entities, as well as against the current and former commissioners of the Minnesota Department of Safety (DPS).

DPS makes drivers' motor vehicle records available to law enforcement officers through a computerized Driver and Vehicle Services (DVS) database. Id . ¶ 78. In March 2013, McDonough requested an audit of her DVS motor vehicle record from DPS. Id . ¶ 167; see id. Ex. A. The audit showed that the record had been accessed hundreds of times from facilities maintained by defendant agencies, counties and cities. See Compl. ¶ 168. The record included her address, photograph, date of birth, weight, height, eye color and driver identification number. Id . ¶ 130. Each defendant accessed the record between one and 161 times. See id. Ex. A. McDonough alleges that there was no legitimate purpose for each access, and that the Commissioner Defendants "disclosed... [her] [p]rivate [d]ata... by devising and implementing... the DVS database." Compl. ¶¶ 142, 224-25.

On July 12, 2013, McDonough filed suit, alleging claims (1) under the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), (2) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and (3) for invasion of privacy. The County Defendants, City Defendants, Commissioner Defendants, DCCC and SLMPD move to dismiss.[2] Hennepin County and Ramsey County also move to sever.


I. Standard of Review

To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Braden v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. , 588 F.3d 585, 594 (8th Cir. 2009) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff [has pleaded] factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). Although a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, it must raise a right to relief above the speculative level. See Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555. "[L]abels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" are not sufficient to state a claim. Iqbal , 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

II. DPPA Claims

McDonough first asserts a claim against all defendants for violations of the DPPA. The DPPA provides that "[i]t shall be unlawful for any person knowingly to obtain or disclose personal information, [3] from a motor vehicle record, for any use not permitted under section 2721(b)[4] of this title." 18 U.S.C. § 2722. Under the DPPA, any "person[5] who knowingly obtains, discloses or uses personal information, from a motor vehicle record, for a purpose not permitted under this chapter shall be liable to the individual to whom the information pertains." Id . § 2724(a). McDonough alleges that all defendants either obtained or disclosed her information without a permitted purpose.

A. Statute of Limitations

Defendants first argue that some of the DPPA claims are timebarred. Because the DPPA does not contain a statute of limitations, the general four-year federal statute of limitations applies. See 28 U.S.C. § 1658(a) ("Except as otherwise provided by law, a civil action arising under an Act of Congress... may not be commenced later than 4 years after the cause of action accrues."). The parties dispute, however, when a DPPA cause of action accrues. Defendants argue that the court should adopt "[t]he general rule concerning statutes of limitation[, which] is that a cause of action accrues when the wrong occurs and a party sustains injuries for which relief could be sought." Ridenour v. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharms., Inc. , 679 F.3d 1062, 1065 (8th Cir. 2012) (first alteration in original) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). McDonough responds that ...

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