Kennedy v. City of Braham, Case No. 14–cv–226 SRN/SER.

Decision Date12 December 2014
Docket NumberCase No. 14–cv–226 SRN/SER.
Citation67 F.Supp.3d 1020
PartiesKirsten Hagen KENNEDY, Plaintiff, v. CITY OF BRAHAM ; Robert Knowles, in his individual capacity as the Chief of Police for the City of Braham; Michael Campion, in his individual capacity as the Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety ; Ramona Dohman, in her individual capacity as the 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 (1–20) including cities, counties, municipalities, and other entities sited in Minnesota, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Minnesota

67 F.Supp.3d 1020

Kirsten Hagen KENNEDY, Plaintiff
v.
CITY OF BRAHAM ; Robert Knowles, in his individual capacity as the Chief of Police for the City of Braham; Michael Campion, in his individual capacity as the Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety ; Ramona Dohman, in her individual capacity as the 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 (1–20) including cities, counties, municipalities, and other entities sited in Minnesota, Defendants.

Case No. 14–cv–226 SRN/SER.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota.

Signed Dec. 12, 2014.


67 F.Supp.3d 1024

Lorenz F. Fett, Jr., Sonia L. Miller–Van Oort, Jonathan A. Strauss, Sapientia Law Group PLLC, Minneapolis, MN, for Plaintiff.

Jon K. Iverson, Stephanie A. Angolkar, Susan M. Tindal, Iverson Reuvers Condon, Bloomington, MN, for Defendant City of Braham and Defendant Robert Knowles.

Oliver J. Larson, Minnesota Attorney General's Office, St. Paul, MN, for Defendants Michael Campion and Ramona Dohman.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

SUSAN RICHARD NELSON, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court on the following motions: (1) Defendants City of Braham's and Chief Robert Knowles' Motion to Dismiss [Doc. No. 7]; and (2) Defendant Commissioners Ramona Dohman and Michael Campion's Motion to Dismiss [Doc. No. 15]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants City of Braham's and Chief Knowles' motion, and grants Defendant Commissioners' motion in its entirety.

67 F.Supp.3d 1025

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Kirsten Hagen Kennedy (“Plaintiff” or “Kennedy”) filed this action on January 23, 2014, against the municipal, county, and individual Defendants listed above. (See Compl. [Doc. No. 1].) In Count I of her Complaint, Plaintiff asserts a claim under the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (“DPPA”), 18 U.S.C. § 2721, et seq., against all Defendants. (Id. ¶¶ 216–41.) In Count II, Plaintiff brings a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against all individual Defendants, including Chief Knowles and Jane and John Does. (Id. ¶¶ 242–59.) In Count III, Plaintiff states an additional claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against all entity Defendants and supervisor Defendants, including John and Jane Entity Does. (Id. ¶¶ 260–82.) In Count IV, Plaintiff asserts a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against the Commissioner Defendants and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) Does. (Id. ¶¶ 283–300.) Finally, in Count V, Plaintiff brings a common law intrusion upon seclusion claim against all Defendants. (Id. ¶¶ 301–07.)

Plaintiff's claims are centered on allegations that law enforcement personnel viewed her private driver's license information in the Minnesota Department of Vehicle Services (“DVS”) driver's license database and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (“BCA”) database [collectively “DPS database”] without a legitimate purpose. (See id. ¶¶ 2–5.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Robert Knowles, Chief of the City of Braham Police Department (id. ¶¶ 15, 28), accessed her personal information for purely personal reasons, unrelated to his law enforcement duties (id. ¶¶ 50, 52–53).

Kennedy has five children and is divorced. (Id. ¶ 26.) Kennedy is a community organizer in North Branch, Minnesota. (Id. ¶ 24.) In her role as a community organizer, she “successfully advocated to help save the North Branch Police Department from closure or reorganization.” (Id. ¶ 25.) Although Plaintiff works with police departments in her professional capacity, Plaintiff's Complaint suggests that Chief Knowles does not know Kennedy because of her community organizing work. Rather, Kennedy alleges that she met Chief Knowles because they both belong to the same church. (Id. ¶¶ 27, 29.) Chief Knowles is a leader in their church, “sitting on a council that possesses decision-making authority over congregants,” and through his leadership position has access to “private information regarding Kennedy's standing in the church.” (Id. ¶ 29.)

Plaintiff alleges that before 2002, she “counted Knowles's wife as a friend,” as “[t]hey attended the same church, their children played together [,] and they socialized with each other.” (Id. ¶ 30.) In 2002, Kennedy moved away from Minnesota with her family. (Id. ¶ 31.) She returned to Minnesota in 2008. (Id. ) Since 2008, Plaintiff's only contact with Chief Knowles was “church or event related.” (Id. ¶ 32.)

In 2013, Plaintiff contacted Kim Jacobson at the DPS and requested an audit of the number of times her name was run on the DPS databases. (Id. ¶ 129.) Before Kennedy received the audit she requested, she saw Chief Knowles at a graduation party for Knowles' nephew. (Id. ¶ 131.) Kennedy informed Chief Knowles that she had requested the audit, and she asked him about the legality of law enforcement officers accessing her private information. (Id. ¶¶ 131–33.) Chief Knowles allegedly replied that “it would not be allowed or legal” for officers to look up Kennedy's private information. (Id. ¶ 134.) As Kennedy was leaving the graduation party, Chief Knowles allegedly told her, “I've looked you up a couple of times.” (Id. ¶ 135.)

67 F.Supp.3d 1026

After this exchange at the graduation party, but before Plaintiff received the audit she requested, Plaintiff alleges that Chief Knowles called her. (Id. ¶ 136.) Chief Knowles allegedly told Kennedy that his name was going to appear in the audit. (Id. ¶ 137.) He also told her, “let's be clear, you asked me to look you up and it was four times.” (Id. ¶ 138.) Not only was this alleged phone call unsolicited, but Plaintiff also claims that she never asked Chief Knowles to look up her private data. (Id. ¶¶ 139–40.)

On, or about, June 3, 2013 Plaintiff received a letter from Sally Hoy, the Chief Administrator of the City of Braham. (Id. ¶ 145.) In the letter, Hoy explained to Kennedy that only one Braham police officer was responsible for the 49 City of Braham lookups of her name. (Id. ¶ 146.) Additionally, Hoy explained that she spoke with Chief Knowles about his use of the database, and Chief Knowles “acknowledged that the only person he queried that much was Kennedy.” (Id. ¶ 147.) Hoy also stated in the letter that Chief Knowles informed her that “Kennedy was a friend to him and his wife, and that [Kennedy] had requested him to keep an eye on [her] driver's license record to make sure nothing was on it.” (Id. ¶ 148.) Kennedy contends that she never had a friendship with Chief Knowles. (Id. ¶ 149.) Rather, she only considered Knowles' wife her friend. (Id.) Moreover, Kennedy alleges that she never requested Chief Knowles to check her driver's license record. (Id. ¶¶ 150–52.) Plaintiff alleges that Chief Knowles sought to cover up his illegal actions by fabricating Kennedy's request. (Id. ¶ 153.)

On June 5, 2013, Kennedy alleges that she learned from the DPS that officers from various departments and agencies accessed her driver's license information 71 times since 2007. (Id. ¶ 143; see Compl., Ex. A [Doc. No. 1–1].) The audit also indicated that of the 71 lookups, personnel from the City of Braham obtained her private data 49 times from 2009 to 2012. (Compl. ¶ 144 [Doc. No. 1].) Reading the audit and the facts alleged about the letter from Hoy, as a whole, the Court concludes that it is plausible that all 49 City of Braham lookups were made by Chief Knowles. The chart below itemizes the number of lookups allegedly made by each Defendant for a purpose not permitted under the DPPA:

Entity Number of times accessed Date and Time
Braham Police Department (Chief Knowles) 49 (Id. ; Compl., Ex. A “Audit” at 1–4 [Doc. No. 1–1].) 07/23/2007 at 4:06 pm 05/04/2009 at 4:36 pm 05/05/2009 at 3:31 pm 05/06/2009 at 11:29 am, 12:03 pm, 12:17 pm 05/12/2009 at 4:01 pm 10/08/2009 at 12:30 pm 11/10/2009 at 2:04 pm, 2:04 pm, 2:05 pm, 2:05 pm 12/25/2009 at 9:21 am 12/31/2009 at 10:52 am, 10:52 am, 10:52 am, 10:53 am, 10:53 am 02/09/2010 at 8:53 am 03/30/2010 at 11:21 am, 11:21 am, 11:21 am, 11:22 am 07/21/2010 at 2:21 pm 10/05/2010 at 9:11 am, 9:11 am, 9:12 am, 9:12 am 12/26/2010 at 1:25 pm, 1:25 pm 1:25 pm, 1:26 pm 03/14/2011 at 9:17 am, 9:18 am 06/28/2011 at 9:17 am, 9:18 am, 9:18 am 07/18/2011 at 3:06 pm 09/20/2011 at 9:58 am 10/28/2011 at 8:23 am, 8:24 am, 8:24 am 01/05/2012 at 1:35 pm, 1:35 pm, 1:35 pm, 1:36 pm 01/18/2012 at 12:29 pm 04/24/2012 at 2:23 pm 05/14/2012 at 9:53 am
...

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