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Orduno v. Pietrzak

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

August 1, 2019

Samantha Orduno, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff - Appellant,
v.
Richard Pietrzak, in his individual capacity as the Chief of Police of the City of Dayton; City of Dayton; Michael Campion, in his individual capacity as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety; Ramona Dohman, in her individual capacity as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety; John and Jane Does, employees of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety in their individual capacities as officers, supervisors, staff, employees, independent contractors or agents of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety; John and Jane Does 1-120, acting in their individual capacity as supervisors in the City of Dayton, Defendants - Appellees. Samantha Orduno, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
Richard Pietrzak, in his individual capacity as the Chief of Police of the City of Dayton, Defendant, City of Dayton, Defendant-Appellant, Michael Campion, in his individual capacity as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety; Ramona Dohman, in her individual capacity as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety; John and Jane Does, employees of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety in their individual capacities as officers, supervisors, staff, employees, independent contractors or agents of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety; John and Jane Does 1-120, acting in their individual capacity as supervisors in the City of Dayton, Defendants.

          Submitted: February 12, 2019

          Appeals from United States District Court for the District of Minnesota - Minneapolis

          Before LOKEN, COLLOTON, and KELLY, Circuit Judges.

          COLLOTON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Samantha Orduno sued police chief Richard Pietrzak, the City of Dayton, Minnesota, and other public officials for alleged violations of the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), 18 U.S.C. § 2724. Orduno moved to certify a class of all persons whose information Pietrzak impermissibly obtained, but the district court[1]denied the motion. Pietrzak then admitted liability for six violations of the DPPA, and a jury awarded Orduno $85, 000 in punitive damages, but no actual damages. The court ruled that Orduno failed to present sufficient evidence that the City was directly liable for any violations of the DPPA, but authorized the jury's finding that the City was vicariously liable for Pietrzak's actions.

         Orduno appeals the district court's denial of class certification and its rulings on the City's direct liability, the exclusion of certain evidence, the award of attorneys' fees, the denial of expert costs, and the application of the DPPA's statute of limitations. On cross-appeal, the City challenges the imposition of vicarious liability for Pietrzak's violations of the DPPA. We affirm.

         I.

         The saga began when a photocopy of Samantha Orduno's paycheck receipt was discovered in a copy machine of the City of Dayton's main office in November 2012. Orduno, the city administrator for Dayton, was on vacation at the time, and had not given anyone permission to copy her financial records. When she learned of the discovery, Orduno believed that the photocopy was a sign of a possible data privacy violation within the city administration.

         Orduno recruited Lynne Bankes, the police chief of nearby White Bear Lake, Minnesota, to investigate the incident. Orduno told Bankes that Dayton Police Chief Richard Pietrzak was her primary suspect, because he had twenty-four-hour access to City Hall and possibly some ill will towards Orduno.

          Bankes inquired with the Minnesota Department of Motor Vehicle Services whether Orduno's personal information had been accessed in Minnesota's Driver and Vehicle Services database. The Department provided Bankes with a printout showing fourteen searches of the database for Orduno's information between January 19, 2010, and October 4, 2012. Pietrzak made seven of these queries. Bankes noticed that Pietrzak searched for Orduno based on her name, rather than her vehicle information, leading Bankes to suspect that Pietrzak was not investigating a traffic stop and had no legitimate law enforcement purpose for accessing Orduno's information.

         Bankes requested that the Department send her a list of Pietrzak's accesses over the preceding six months. The response listed more than 850 people, including family members, other employees of the police department and city administration, and persons from surrounding communities. Bankes noticed that "very few" of these accesses were based on a license plate number. In a written report, Bankes concluded that Pietrzak violated the Minnesota Data Practices Act, noted the possibility of charging him with a gross misdemeanor for committing misconduct as a public officer or employee, and opined that there was "no excuse" for his behavior in making improper or illegal access to the database.

         In May 2014, Orduno sued Pietrzak under the DPPA, alleging that he unlawfully obtained her private information and the private information of around 850 other people. Orduno also named the City of Dayton and other public officials as defendants, claiming that the City and these officials had enabled Pietrzak to access the database and then failed to monitor him adequately to prevent his unlawful conduct. The district court dismissed the claims against the city officials for failure to state a claim, and granted in part a motion to dismiss by Pietrzak and the City based on the four-year statute of limitations.[2]

         Orduno then moved to certify a class defined as follows:

Individuals whose Minnesota driver's license records were obtained without a purpose or purposes permitted under the DPPA by Defendant Richard Pietrzak from May 2, 2010 through the present date while Defendant Richard Pietrzak was employed by Defendant City of Dayton.

         The court denied the motion, concluding that the proposed class failed to satisfy the numerosity and predominance requirements of Federal ...


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