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Loeffler v. City of Anoka

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

June 1, 2015

Jennie Marie Loeffler, Plaintiff,
v.
City of Anoka; City of Burnsville; Dakota County; Dakota County Communications Center; City of Duluth; City of Eagan; City of Fairmont; City of Farmington; City of Hancock; Isanti County; Mille Lacs County; City of Minneapolis; City of Morris; Renville County; Rice County; City of Richfield; City of Roseville; City of St. Francis; City of St. Paul; City of Staples; Wright County; Yellow Medicine County; Michael Campion, acting in his individual capacity as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety; Ramona Dohman, acting in her individual capacity as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety; John and Jane 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 departments and agencies; A Female Officer to be Later Named, Acting in Her Individual Capacity as a Law-Enforcement Officer for the City of Duluth; City of Lakeville; City of Mankato; City of Milaca; City of New Prague; City of Pequot Lakes; and Saint Louis County, Defendants.

Sonia L. Miller-Van Oort, Sapientia Law Group PLLC (for Plaintiff).

Nick D. Campanario, St. Louis County Attorney’s Office, St. Louis County Courthouse (for Defendant Saint Louis County).

REPORT & RECOMMENDATION

Tony N. Leung, United States Magistrate Judge for the District of Minnesota.

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court, United States Magistrate Judge Tony N. Leung, on Defendant Saint Louis County’s (the “County”) Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c) (ECF No. 114). This motion has been referred to the undersigned magistrate judge for a report and recommendation to the district court, the Honorable Michael J. Davis, Chief District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, pursuant to 20 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and D. Minn. LR 72.1(b). (ECF No. 119.)

The parties agreed that the Court may issue its report and recommendation without a hearing and consequently no hearing on the motion was held. (ECF No. 115.)

Based upon the record, memoranda, and the proceedings herein, IT IS HEREBY RECOMMENDED that the County’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c) (ECF No. 114) be GRANTED.

II. BACKGROUND[1]

Plaintiff brings claims under the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (“DPPA”), 18 U.S.C. § 2721 et seq.; 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and Minnesota common law invasion of privacy based on accesses of her personal and private driver’s license information. (Compl. ¶¶ 6, 179-246, 272-77, ECF No. 1.) This is one of several actions filed in this District alleging unlawful access of private data. See, e.g., Kiminski v. Hunt, File No. 13-cv-185 (JNE/TNL) (consolidated cases); Kost v. Hunt, File No. 13-cv-583 (JNE/TNL); Potocnik v. Anoka Cnty., File No. 13-cv-1103 (DSD/TNL) (Ltr. to Hon. Michael J. Davis, Mar. 25, 2014, listing pending DPPA cases (ECF No. 98)); see also Heglund v. Aitkin Cnty., No. 14-cv-296 (ADM/LIB), 2014 WL 4414821, at *2 n.1 (D. Minn. Sept. 5, 2014) (noting at least 28 cases). On June 24, 2014, this Court issued a Report & Recommendation on motions to dismiss filed by certain other defendants in this matter (ECF No. 102) (the “Prior R&R”). 2014 WL 4449674 (D. Minn. June 24, 2014), adopted in part, 2014 WL 4449692 (D. Minn. Sept. 9, 2014). Part II therein sets forth a more complete summary of the global facts applicable to the instant matter and is hereby incorporated by reference. Id. at *1-3.

A. The Database & Records Maintained

The Driver and Vehicle Services Division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) maintains a database with certain information on Minnesota drivers, including their names, dates of birth, license numbers, addresses, license photos, physical descriptions (weight, height, and eye color), Social Security numbers, and certain health and disability information. (Compl. ¶¶ 63-64.) The disclosure of this information is regulated by the DPPA. Maracich v. Spears, 133 S.Ct. 2191, 2195 (2013). This information is categorized as “personal information” or “highly restricted personal information, ” the access or disclosure of which is allowed only for certain permissible uses. 18 U.S.C. §§ 2721(a), (b), 2722(a), 2725(3), (4). One of the purposes permitted under the DPPA is access “[f]or use by any government agency, including any court or law enforcement agency, in carrying out its functions, or any private person or entity acting on behalf of a Federal, state, or local agency in carrying out its functions.” 18 U.S.C. § 2721(b)(1).

B. Accesses of Plaintiff’s Information

Plaintiff was married to a City of Lakeville law enforcement officer until the dissolution of their marriage following her then-husband’s affair with a Duluth police officer. (Compl. ¶¶ 52, 54.) Sometime after she became aware of the affair, Plaintiff became concerned that her personal information in the DPS database had been impermissibly accessed. (Id. ¶ 56.) She attempted on two different occasions to receive an audit of accesses to her information from the DPS. (Id. ¶¶ 56-57, 60-62.) The DPS refused to release the information when Plaintiff made her first request in 2011, but provided her with an audit upon her second request in 2013. (Id. ¶¶ 57, 61-62.) Collectively, Plaintiff alleges that “law-enforcement personnel viewed her private information more than 130 times from 2003 to 2012.” (Id. ¶ 2.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendants viewed “her home address, color photograph or image, date of birth, eye color, weight and driver identification number.” (Id. ¶ 96.) She alleges that “Defendants accessed the information for personal reasons completely unrelated to their positions as law enforcement officers.” (Id. ¶ 95.) Plaintiff further alleges that she did not commit any crimes such that the police would look her up in the database, and that Defendants looked her up by name, rather than license plate number. (Id. ¶¶ 3, 159-60.)

In sum, Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants knowingly “obtained, disclosed, or used [her] personal information . . . for a purpose not permitted under the DPPA[, ]” and that “[n]one of the Individual Defendants’ activities fell within the DPPA’s permitted exceptions for procurement of [her] private information.” (Id. ¶¶ 188-89.) With respect to the County, Plaintiff alleges that “[o]fficers employed by, licensed by, or otherwise accessing through Saint Louis County impermissibly accessed [her p]rivate [d]ata six times.” (Id. ¶ 90.)

C. Litigation

Plaintiff filed the instant litigation on July 30, 2013. (Compl.) In Count I, Plaintiff alleges the County and its employees violated the DPPA. (Id. ¶¶ 179-205.) In Count II, Plaintiff alleges, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, that individual employees of the County violated her rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and federal law (specifically, the DPPA). (Id. ¶¶ 206-23.) In Count III, Plaintiff alleges that the County was aware of the widespread access of private data for personal use; such use was against regulations promulgated by the County; and the County’s pervasive failure to take action to stop or prevent such use (including the failure to properly train, monitor, supervise, and properly discipline) amounted to deliberate indifference to Plaintiff’s rights ...


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