Bass v. Anoka Cnty.

Decision Date21 February 2014
Docket NumberCivil No. 13–860(DSD/JJG).
Citation998 F.Supp.2d 813
PartiesBrooke Nicole BASS, Plaintiff, v. ANOKA COUNTY; Benton County; Blue Earth County; Carver County; Chisago County; Clay County; Cook County; Crow Wing County; Dakota County; Dodge County; Goodhue County; Hennepin County; Houston County; Kandiyohi County; Lyon County; McLeod County; Morrison County; Murray County; Pipestone County; Ramsey County; Rice County; Scott County; Sherburne County; Stearns County; Washington County; Wright County; City of Alexandria; City of Anoka; City of Apple Valley; City of Appleton; City of Becker; City of Bemidji; City of Big Lake; City of Blaine; City of Bloomington; City of Brooklyn Center; City of Brooklyn Park; City of Burnsville; City of Champlin; City of Cottage Grove; City of Crystal; City of Dayton; City of Eagan; City of Elk River; City of Elko New Market; City of Fairmont; City of Faribault; City of Farmington; City of Forest Lake; City of Fridley; City of Gaylord; City of Hopkins; City of Inver Grove Heights; City of Jackson; City of Jordan; City of Kasson; City of Maple Grove; City of Maplewood; City of Marshall; City of Medina; City of Minneapolis; City of Minnetonka; City of Minnetrista; City of Moorhead; City of Morris; City of Mounds View; City of New Hope; City of New Ulm; City of North Mankato; City of North St. Paul; City of Oakdale, City of Osseo, City of Plymouth; City of Princeton; City of Prior Lake; City of Ramsey; City of Richfield; City of Robbinsdale; City of Rosemount; City of Roseville; City of Sartell; City of Savage; City of Shakopee; City of Slayton; City of Sleepy Eye; City of Spring Lake Park; City of St. Anthony; City of St. Cloud; City of St. Francis; City of St. Joseph; City of St. Louis Park; City of Stillwater; City of Two Harbors; City of Wayzata; City of West Saint Paul; City of Winona; Michael Campion, acting in his individual capacity as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety; Mona 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 named 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; and Entity Does (1–50) including cities, counties, municipalities, and other entities sited in Minnesota and federal departments and agencies, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Minnesota


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, Minneapolis, MN, counsel for plaintiff.

Bryan D. Frantz, Esq. Anoka County Attorney's Office, Anoka, MN, Andrea G. White, Esq., Dakota County Attorney's Office, Hastings, MN, Beth A. Stack, Esq., Toni A. Beitz, Esq. and Hennepin County Attorney's Office, Andrea K. Naef, Esq., Kristin R. Sarff, Esq. and Minneapolis City Attorney's Office, Minneapolis, MN, Kimberly R. Parker, Esq., Robert B. Roche, Esq. and Ramsey County Attorney's Office, John S. Garry, Esq., John R. Mule, Esq., Oliver J. Larson, Esq. and Minnesota Attorney General's Office, St. Paul, MN, Joseph E. Flynn, Esq., Jamie L. Guderian, Esq. and Jardine, Logan & O'Brien, PLLP, Lake Elmo, MN, Susan M. Tindal, Esq., Jon K. Iverson, Esq. and Iverson, Reuvers, Condon, Bloomington, MN, Attorneys for defendants.


DAVID S. DOTY, District Judge.

This matter is before the court upon defendants' motions to dismiss and motions for judgment on the pleadings.1 Hennepin County also moves to sever the claims against it. Based on a review of the file, record and proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, the court grants the motions to dismiss and the motions for judgment on the pleadings and denies as moot the motion to sever.


This privacy dispute arises out of defendants' access of the motor vehicle record of plaintiff Brooke Nicole Bass between 2005 and 2012. Compl. ¶ 260. Bass asserts claims against numerous counties and cities, as well as against the current and former commissioners of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS).

DPS makes drivers' motor vehicle records available to law enforcement officers through a computerized Driver and Vehicle Services (DVS) database. Id. ¶ 128. In 2013, Bass requested an audit of her DVS motor vehicle record from DPS. Id. ¶ 3; see id. Ex. A. The audit showed that the record had been accessed hundreds of times from facilities maintained by defendant counties and cities. See Compl. ¶ 371. The record included her address, photograph, date of birth, weight, height, eye color and driver identification number. Id. ¶ 227. Each City and County Defendant accessed the record between one and seventy-four times. See id. Ex. A. Bass alleges that there was no legitimate purpose for each access, and that the Commissioner Defendants “knowingly disclosed [her] ... [p]rivate [d]ata and violated state policy by devising and implementing ... the DVS Database.” Compl. ¶ 240.

On April 12, 2013, Bass 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 Commissioners, County and City Defendants each move to dismiss or for judgment on the pleadings.2 Hennepin County also moves to sever.

I. Standard of Review

The same standard governs a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) and a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c). See Clemons v. Crawford, 585 F.3d 1119, 1124 (8th Cir.2009). 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, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (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, 127 S.Ct. 1955. [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

Bass 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). Bass 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 time-barred. Because the DPPA does not contain a statute of limitations, the general four-year federal statute of limitations applies. See28 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). Bass responds that the “discovery rule” applies, and that “the statutory period of limitations is tolled until the injured party discovers or reasonably should have discoveredfacts supporting a cause of action.” Id. (citations omitted).

Although the Eighth Circuit is silent on when a DPPA cause of action accrues, courts in this district hold that the general accrual rule applies to the DPPA. See, e.g., Rasmusson v. Chisago Cnty., No. 12–632, 991 F.Supp.2d 1065, 1080–81, 2014 WL 107067, at *12 (D.Minn. Jan. 10, 2014); Kost v. Hunt, No. 13–583, 983 F.Supp.2d 1121, 1129–30, 2013 WL 6048921, at *8 (D.Minn. Nov. 15, 2013). In Kost, Judge Ericksen considered relevant precedent as well as textual, historical and equitable arguments before applying the general accrual rule to DPPA claims. 983 F.Supp.2d at 1126–30, 2013 WL 6048921, at *5–8. The court finds Kost persuasive and adopts its reasoning in applying the general accrual rule.6 As a result, all claims relating to conduct before April 12, 2009—four years before the present action was commenced—are time-barred, and dismissal of those claims is warranted.

B. Claims Against Commissioners

As to the timely claims, Bass first alleges DPPA claims against the Commissioner Defendants. Bass does not allege, however, that the Commissioner Defendants personally obtained the record or personally communicated such information to others. Rather, Bass alleges that the Commissioner Defendants created, maintained and inadequately monitored the DVS database, thereby facilitating others' improper access to the record.

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