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Garn v. City of Brooklyn Park

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

March 24, 2015

Barbara Garn, Plaintiff,
v.
City of Brooklyn Park; City of Crystal; City of Minneapolis; City of North St. Paul; City of St. Paul; City of Woodbury; Kandiyohi County; Michael Campion, in his individual capacity as Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety; Ramona Dohman, in her individual capacity as Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety; John and Jane Does (1-100) acting in their individual capacity as supervisors, officers, deputies, staff, investigators, employees, or agents of the other governmental 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; and Entity Does (1-50 including cities, counties, municipalities, and other entities sited in Minnesota, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

PAUL A. MAGNUSON, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motions to Dismiss and/or to Sever. For the reasons that follow, the Motions to Dismiss are granted, the Motions to Sever are denied as moot, and the Complaint is dismissed with prejudice as to all Defendants except the City of St. Paul, and dismissed without prejudice as to St. Paul.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Barbara Garn alleges that Defendants[1] illegally accessed her driver's license information nearly 60 times between 2004 and 2011 without a legitimate law-enforcement purpose. (Compl. ¶ 2.) Garn formerly edited two publications aimed at the law enforcement community, Minnesota Trooper and Minnesota Fraternal Order of Police. (Id. ¶¶ 30-31.) In addition, Garn operates an adult hockey league that a number of law enforcement personnel play in. (Id. ¶¶ 34-35.) Garn alleges that a law-enforcement employee from Brooklyn Park and another from Crystal showed romantic interest in her (id. ¶ 36), and that a law-enforcement officer from St. Paul was kicked out of her hockey league in the Spring of 2011. (Id. ¶ 37.) Garn further alleges that the hockey-playing Brooklyn Park police officer's romantic interest occurred in late 2009, which coincides with some of Brooklyn Park's look-ups. (Id. ¶ 62.) Similarly, the romantic interest shown by the Crystal police officer occurred during the 2008-2009 hockey season, which also corresponds to some of the Crystal look-ups. (Id. ¶ 67.)

The Driver and Vehicle Services Division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) maintains a database of Minnesota drivers' motor vehicle records, which includes each licensed driver's name, date of birth, driver's license number, address, photograph, weight, height, eye color, social security number, and certain health and disability information. (Id. ¶¶ 39-40.) The database includes current and past data for each licensed driver. (Id. ¶ 40.) All of this information was available each time someone accessed Garn's records.

DPS provided an audit to Garn showing each date and time her driver's license data was accessed by an Unknown Defendant. (Id. ¶ 45, Ex. A.) Garn requested only those lookups that were accomplished by using her name, rather than her license plate number. (Id. ¶ 177.) The DPS audit shows that Garn's data was accessed 54 total times between 2004 and 2011. (Id. Ex. A.) All City Defendants named in the Complaint accessed Garn's data, as did Kandiyohi County. In addition, Garn's data was accessed by the Minnesota DNR and by the South St. Paul driver's license office, but these entities are not named in this suit. (Id.) Thus, Garn challenges a total of 52 instances of allegedly improper access to her driver's license data over an eight-year period.

Garn asserts that each acquisition of her data must have been unauthorized and improper because she has never been "charged with or suspected of committing a crime in [any of the City or County Defendants' jurisdictions], has never been involved in any civil, criminal, administrative, or arbitral proceeding in or involving [any City Defendant or Kadiyohi County], and there was no legitimate reason for [her] to have been the subject of any investigation by [any City Defendant or Kandiyohi County]." (Id. ¶¶ 54, 60, 65, 70, 74, 78, 82.) Her only explanation for Defendants' alleged actions is "because Plaintiff is a woman, because Plaintiff is well-known in the law-enforcement community, because of Plaintiff's physical attractiveness, or because Plaintiff is interesting to law-enforcement officers or for other personal reasons." (Id. ¶ 183.)

On October 9, 2014, Garn filed suit alleging a single claim under the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA). Garn seeks damages "in excess of $75, 000, " punitive damages, costs, attorney's fees, and injunctive relief. All Defendants have filed Motions to Dismiss and all Defendants save the Commissioner Defendants have filed Motions to Sever.

This Court previously dismissed one of the more than 30 similar DPPA cases filed in this District. Ray v. Anoka Cnty., 24 F.Supp. 3d 843 (D. Minn. 2014). The Court's colleagues have similarly dismissed, either in whole or in part, most of the remaining DPPA cases. See, e.g., Kolls v. Edina, No. 14-cv-370, 2014 WL 5810332 (D. Minn. Nov. 7, 2014) (Frank, J.); Delaney v. Beltrami Cnty., No. 14-cv-358, 2014 WL 5406884 (D. Minn. Oct. 21, 2014) (Schiltz, J.); Gavin v. Anoka Cnty., No. 14-cv-615, 2014 WL 4722496 (D. Minn. Sept. 22, 2014) (Montgomery, J.); Sherno v. Anoka Cnty., No. 14-cv-982, 2014 WL 4670926 (D. Minn. Sept. 19, 2014) (Ericksen, J.); Roschen v. Wabasha Cnty., 29 F.Supp. 3d 1244 (D. Minn. 2014) (Montgomery, J.); Kost v. Hunt (Kost II), No. 13-cv-583, 2014 WL 2002989 (D. Minn. May 15, 2014) (Ericksen, J.) (affirming Report and Recommendation dated December 19, 2013) (Leung, M.J.); Gulsvig v. Mille Lacs Cnty., No. 13-cv-1309, 2014 WL 1285785 (D. Minn. Mar. 31, 2014) (Tunheim, J.); Sheila Potocnik v. Carlson, No. 13-cv-2093, 2014 WL 1206403 (D. Minn. Mar. 24, 2014) (Schiltz, J.); Mitchell v. Aitkin Cnty., No. 13-cv-2167, 2014 WL 835129 (D. Minn. Mar. 4, 2014) (Ericksen, J.); McDonough v. Al's Auto Sales, Inc., No. 13-cv-1889, 2014 WL 683998 (D. Minn. Feb. 21, 2014) (Doty, J.); Brian Potocnik v. Anoka Cnty., No. 13-cv-1103, 2014 WL 683980 (D. Minn. Feb. 21, 2014) (Doty, J.); Bass v. Anoka Cnty., 998 F.Supp.2d 813 (D. Minn. 2014) (Doty, J.); Rasmussen v. Chisago Cnty., 991 F.Supp.2d 1065 (D. Minn. 2014) (Nelson, J.); Nelson v. Jesson, No. 13-cv-340, 2013 WL 5888235 (D. Minn. Nov. 1, 2013) (Kyle, J.); Kiminski v. Hunt, No. 13cv-185, 2013 WL 6872452 (D. Minn. Sept. 20, 2013) (Ericksen, J.).

On March 11, 2015, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral argument on the consolidated appeal of four of the dismissed cases. See Mitchell v. Aitkin Cnty., No. 14-1765 (8th Cir. filed Mar. 28, 2014); McDonough v. Al's Auto Sales, No. 14-1754 (8th Cir. filed Mar. 28, 2014), Bass v. Anoka Cnty., No. 14-1756 (8th Cir. filed Mar. 28, 2014); Brian Potocnik v. Anoka Cnty., No. 14-1974 (8th Cir. filed Apr. 23, 2014). There is, of course, no timetable for the Court of Appeals's ruling on those matters.

Having previously addressed a substantially similar case, the Court will not repeat its legal analysis, except where necessary to elucidate the issues presented here.

DISCUSSION

When evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), 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 Garn. Morton v. Becker, 793 F.2d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1986). 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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (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 under Twombly. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, ...


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