Senne v. Vill. of Palatine

Decision Date06 August 2012
Docket NumberNo. 10–3243.,10–3243.
Citation695 F.3d 597
PartiesJason M. SENNE, Plaintiff–Appellant, v. VILLAGE OF PALATINE, ILLINOIS, Defendant–Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit


Martin J. Murphy (argued), Attorney, Long Grove, IL, for PlaintiffAppellant.

Christopher Keleher, Attorney, Querrey & Harrow, Robert Christopher Kenny, Schain, Burney, Banks & Kenny, Brandon K. Lemley (argued), Attorney, Querrey & Harrow, Chicago, IL, for DefendantAppellee.


RIPPLE, Circuit Judge.

Jason Senne's vehicle was parked overnight on a public way in the Village of Palatine, Illinois (the Village), where such parking was prohibited by ordinance. Village authorities placed a parking citation on his windshield. Various pieces of personal information, obtained by the Village from a database originating with the Illinois Department of Motor Vehicles, were printed on the citation. Mr. Senne subsequently brought this action on behalf of himself and a class of others similarly situated against the Village. 1 He claimed that the Village's practice of printing personal information obtained from motor vehicle records on parking tickets was a violation of the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (the Act or the “DPPA”), 18 U.S.C. §§ 2721– 25. Under the DPPA, state departments of motor vehicles (“DMVs”) are restricted in their ability to disclose certain personal information contained in motor vehicle records; authorized recipients are further restricted in redisclosing information obtained from those records. See id. § 2721. Injured persons are provided with a private right of action. See id. § 2724.

The Village moved to dismiss Mr. Senne's claim for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. SeeFed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). It contended that issuing a parking citation was not a disclosure under the statute and that, even if it were, it fell within a specifically permitted purpose identified in the statute. The district court agreed and granted the Village's motion. A panel of this court affirmed, Senne v. Vill. of Palatine, Illinois, 645 F.3d 919 (7th Cir.2011), and the full court granted rehearing en banc.2 Mr. Senne's appeal requires that we examine the scope of the DPPA's protection of personal information contained in motor vehicle records and the reach of its statutory exceptions. We now conclude that the parking ticket at issue here did constitute a disclosure regulated by the DPPA, and we further agree with Mr. Senne that, at this stage of the litigation, the facts as alleged are sufficient to state a claim that the disclosure on his parking ticket exceeded that permitted by the statute. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the district court and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

A. Facts

Mr. Senne's complaint, which we must accept for present purposes as true, 3 alleges that, on August 20, 2010, his vehicle was parked on a public way in violation of the Village's overnight parking ban. At 1:35 a.m., a Palatine police officer placed a parking citation under a windshield wiper blade of the vehicle. The citation remained on the windshield, in public view on a public way, until Mr. Senne retrieved it some five hours later.

The ticket had been printed electronically on a pre-existing form. The printed information included a date and time stamp, the officer's name and badge number and the parking offense, which was the basis for the citation. It also included various information about the vehicle, including the make, model, color, year, license number and vehicle identification number (“VIN”). In addition, and most relevant to the present case, the citation included personal data about Mr. Senne, whom motor vehicle records showed to be the owner of the illegally parked vehicle. Specifically, the citation included his full name, address, driver's license number, date of birth, sex, height and weight.

The citation doubled as an envelope to remit payment of the fine, which, if used as intended, would have displayed the printed personal information on its exterior when mailed. It instructed Mr. Senne that he could either pay the $20 fine in person, mail a check or money order using the ticket as an envelope or request a hearing to contest the citation.

B. District Court Proceedings

After receiving the citation, Mr. Senne brought this action in the district court. He alleged that the parking ticket amounted to a disclosure of protected personal information by the Village in violation of the DPPA. His complaint requested, for himself and a putative class, statutory liquidated damages and injunctive relief. He also requested limited, expedited discovery relating to the total number of parking citations issued by the Village in the relevant period. Shortly thereafter, he moved for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction prohibiting the Village from printing any personal information, as defined by the DPPA, on its parking citations.

In response, the Village filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). It contended that the parking ticket was a permitted disclosure under three separate categories in the statute: It was a disclosure (1) [f]or use by a[ ] government agency, including a[ ] ... law enforcement agency, in carrying out its functions,” as permitted by § 2721(b)(1); (2) [f]or use in connection with matters of motor vehicle or driver safety,” as permitted by § 2721(b)(2); and (3) [f]or use in connection with any civil[ ] ... [or] administrative[ ] ... proceeding ..., including the service of process,” as permitted by § 2721(b)(4). The Village later clarified that it did not concede that any disclosure had occurred, other than to the plaintiff, who was the subject of the record.

In a brief oral ruling, the district court agreed with the Village and dismissed the case. The court specifically held that the parking ticket did not fall within the ambit of the statute because its issuance did not constitute a disclosure. In the district court's view, “what the statute is talking about is what people would commonly call a disclosure, which is turning something over to somebody else.” 4 Although the court found this basis sufficient and concluded that reaching the statutory exceptions was unnecessary, it also held that § 2721(b)(1), relating to a law enforcement agency carrying out its functions, would exempt any disclosure made through the parking citation. Mr. Senne timely appealed.


We review de novo the district court's entry of judgment on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.5 We must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and must draw all reasonable inferences in his favor.6 Taking the facts of the complaint as true, the Village contends that the DPPA provides no basis for relief.7

The Village contends that the district court's judgment ought to be affirmed for two reasons. First, it submits that the printing of Mr. Senne's personal information on the citation and the placement of that citation on his windshield did not constitute a disclosure under the Act. Second, it submits that, in any event, the action specifically was permitted by the exceptions to the general limitation on disclosure in the statute. We shall address each argument in turn.

A. Whether the Ticket is a Disclosure Regulated by the DPPA

“As in any case of statutory construction, our analysis begins with the language of the statute.” Hughes Aircraft Co. v. Jacobson, 525 U.S. 432, 438, 119 S.Ct. 755, 142 L.Ed.2d 881 (1999) (internal quotation marks omitted). Specifically, we begin by looking broadly at the structure of the statute to acquire an understanding of the activity that it regulates. “Interpretation of a word or phrase depends upon reading the whole statutory text, considering the purpose and context of the statute[ ]....” Dolan v. United States Postal Serv., 546 U.S. 481, 486, 126 S.Ct. 1252, 163 L.Ed.2d 1079 (2006).

Section 2721 contains the substantive prohibitions and relevant exceptions that principally concern us. It begins with a general restriction on the release of information by a state DMV:

(a) In general.—A State department of motor vehicles, and any officer, employee, or contractor thereof, shall not knowingly disclose or otherwise make available to any person or entity:

(1) personal information, as defined in 18 U.S.C. 2725(3),8 about any individual obtained by the department in connection with a motor vehicle record, except as provided in subsection (b) of this section; or(2) highly restricted personal information, as defined in 18 U.S.C. 2725(4),9 about any individual obtained by the department in connection with a motor vehicle record, without the express consent of the person to whom such information applies, except uses permitted in subsections (b)(1), (b)(4), (b)(6), and (b)(9): Provided, That subsection (a)(2) shall not in any way affect the use of organ donation information on an individual's driver's license or affect the administration of organ donation initiatives in the States.

18 U.S.C. § 2721(a). Subsection (b) defines various exceptions, to which we shall return in some detail. If an exception in subsection (b) permits disclosure by a state DMV to a specific second party, subsection (c) then regulates the separate activity that occurs when the recipient of a record from the DMV is responsible for a secondary disclosure to a third party. Specifically, subsection (c) allows for authorized recipients to “resell or redisclose the information only for a use permitted under subsection (b),” with further exceptions and requirements that need not detain us.10 Both subsection (a) and (c), therefore, regulate a particular kind of disclosure and direct the details of that regulation to subsection (b).


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