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Potocnik v. Carlson

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

October 21, 2014

SHEILA POTOCNIK, Plaintiff,
v.
WALTER CARLSON, acting in his individual capacity as a Sergeant for the City of Minneapolis Police Department; CITY OF ANOKA; CITY OF BLOOMINGTON; CITY OF BROOKLYN CENTER; CITY OF COON RAPIDS, CITY OF MINNEAPOLIS; MICHAEL CAMPION, acting in his individual capacity as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety; RAMONA DOHMAN; 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; 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; ENTITY DOES (1-50), including cities, counties, municipalities, and other entities sited in Minnesota and federal departments and agencies, Defendants.

Kenneth H. Fukuda, Jonathan A. Strauss, Lorenz F. Fett, Jr., and Sonia Miller-Van Oort, SAPIENTIA LAW GROUP, PLLC, for plaintiff.

Jon K. Iverson, Susan M. Tindal, and Stephanie A. Angolkar, IVERSON REUVERS CONDON, for defendants Cities of Anoka, Bloomington, Brooklyn Center, and Coon Rapids.

Kristin R. Sarff and Andrea Kloehn Naef, MINNEAPOLIS CITY ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, for defendant City of Minneapolis.

ORDER

PATRICK J. SCHILTZ, District Judge.

Plaintiff Sheila Potocnik brings claims under the Driver's Privacy Protection Act ("DPPA"), 18 U.S.C. §§ 2721 et seq., claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and state-law claims against numerous defendants for unlawfully obtaining, disclosing, and using information contained in her driver's-license record. This matter is before the Court on the motion of defendant City of Minneapolis for partial judgment on the pleadings[1] and the motion of defendants Cities of Anoka, Bloomington, Brooklyn Center, and Coon Rapids for judgment on the pleadings or, in the alternative, for severance. For the reasons stated below, Minneapolis's motion is granted in part and denied in part, and the motion of the remaining cities for judgment on the pleadings is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

The Court described Potocnik's allegations in a previous order that was issued in connection with an earlier round of motions. See Potocnik v. Carlson, No. 13-CV-2093, 2014 WL 1206403 (D. Minn. Mar. 24, 2014). Briefly, Potocnik alleges that defendant Walter Carlson, who is a Minneapolis police sergeant, repeatedly accessed Potocnik's driver's-license record and repeatedly harassed her over the phone. Potocnik filed this action after obtaining an audit from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety showing multiple accesses of her driver's-license record.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Standard of Review

A motion for judgment on the pleadings under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c) is assessed under the same standards as a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Ashley Cnty. v. Pfizer, Inc., 552 F.3d 659, 665 (8th Cir. 2009). In reviewing a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a court must accept as true all of the factual allegations in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Aten v. Scottsdale Ins. Co., 511 F.3d 818, 820 (8th Cir. 2008). Although the factual allegations in the complaint need not be detailed, they must be sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level...." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The complaint must "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. In assessing the sufficiency of the complaint, a court may disregard legal conclusions that are couched as factual allegations. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009).

B. The DPPA

The DPPA protects from disclosure the "personal information" that a state department of motor vehicles obtains in connection with a motor-vehicle record. 18 U.S.C. § 2721(a). "[P]ersonal information" includes "information that identifies an individual, including an individual's photograph, social security number, driver identification number, name, address (but not the 5-digit ZIP code), telephone number, and medical or disability information...." 18 U.S.C. § 2725(3).

Under the DPPA, it is "unlawful for any person knowingly to obtain or disclose personal information, from a motor vehicle record, for any use not permitted under section 2721(b)...." 18 U.S.C. § 2722(a). Section 2721(b), in turn, sets out fourteen permissible uses for personal information contained in driver's-license records. Permissible uses include "use by any government agency, including any court or law enforcement agency, in carrying out its functions...." 18 U.S.C. § 2721(b)(1). The subject of a motor-vehicle record may sue any "person who knowingly obtains, ...


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