Kampschroer et al v. Anoka County et al
ORDER granting 334 Motion for Summary Judgment; granting 339 Motion for Summary Judgment. See order for details and instructions regarding additional filings and scheduling. (Written Opinion) Signed by Judge Susan Richard Nelson on 8/2/2017. (ADC)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MINNESOTA
Jessica Leah Kampschroer and Cory Patrick
Case No. 13-cv-2512 (SRN/TNL)
Anoka County, et al.,
Sonia Miller-Van Oort, Jonathan A. Strauss, Lorenz F. Fett, Jr., and Robin W. Wolpert,
Sapientia Law Group PLLC, 120 South Sixth St., Ste. 100, Minneapolis, MN 55402;
Jeffrey M. Montpetit, Marcia K. Miller, Susan M. Holden, SiebenCarey, P.A., 901
Marquette Ave, Ste. 500, Minneapolis, MN 55402 for Plaintiffs.
Stephanie A. Angolkar, Jon K. Iverson, and Susan M. Tindal, Iverson Reuvers Condon,
9321 Ensign Ave. S., Bloomington, MN 55438, for Defendants Cities of Anoka, Apple
Valley, Arlington, Baxter, Belle Plaine, Blaine, Bloomington, Braham, Brooklyn Center,
Brooklyn Park, Brownton, Burnsville, Cambridge, Cannon Falls, Champlin, Chaska,
Chisago City, Columbia Heights, Coon Rapids, Corcoran, Cottage Grove, Crosby,
Crystal, Deephaven, Dundas, Eagan, Eden Prairie, Elk River, Fairmont, Faribault,
Farmington, Foley, Forest Lake, Fridley, Glencoe, Golden Valley, Goodview, Hastings,
Hopkins, Howard Lake, Hutchinson, Inver Grove Heights, Isanti, Jordan, Lakeville,
Litchfield, Mankato, Maple Grove, Maplewood, Medina, Mendota Heights, Minnetoka,
Montgomery, Moorhead, Morristown, Mounds View, New Brighton, New Hope, New
Prague, Newport, North Saint Paul, North Mankato, Northfield, Owatonna, Prior Lake,
Ramsey, Richfield, Robbinsdale, Rochester, Rosemount, Roseville, Sartell, Savage,
Shakopee, Spring Lake Park, Saint Anthony Village, Saint Cloud, Saint Francis, Saint
Louis Park, Saint Paul Park, Saint Peter, Staples, Stillwater, West Saint Paul, Waite Park,
Wayzata, White Bear Lake, and Woodbury, and Defendants Centennial Lakes Police
Department, Dakota Communications Center, and Lakes Area Police Department.
Ann E. Walther and Erik Bal, Rice, Michels & Walther, LLP, 10 Second St. NE, Ste.
206, Minneapolis, MN 55413 for Defendant Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.
Toni A. Beitz, Daniel D. Kaczor, Beth A. Stack, Hennepin County Attorney’s Office,
2000A Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 for Defendant Hennepin County.
Cheri M. Sisk, City of St. Paul Attorney’s Office, 15 West Kellogg Blvd., 750 City Hall
and Courthouse, St. Paul, MN 55102 for Defendant City of St. Paul.
Douglas A. Boese, Gregory J. Griffiths, and Jennifer Marie Peterson, Dunlap & Seeger,
P.A., 30 3rd St. SE, Ste. 400, Rochester, MN 55904 for Defendant Olmsted County.
Joseph E. Flynn and Robert I. Yount, Jardine, Logan & O’Brien, PLLP, 8519 Eagle Point
Blvd., Ste. 100, Lake Elmo, MN 55042 for Defendants Counties of Beltrami, Benton,
Blue Earth, Carver, Cass, Chisago, Crow Wing, Faribault, Fillmore, Goodhue, Grant,
Hubbard, Isanti, Kanabec, Le Sueur, McLeod, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Nicollet, Pine, Rice,
Scott, Sherburne, Stearns, Steele, Wadena, Washington, Winona, and Yellow Medicine.
Bryan D. Frantz, Anoka County Attorney’s Office, 2100 3rd Ave., Anoka, MN 55303 for
Defendant Anoka County.
Mark P. Hodkinson, Bassford Remele, P.A., 33 South 6th St., Ste. 3800, Minneapolis,
MN 55402 for Defendant City of Edina.
Kristin R. Sarff, Lindsey E. Middlecamp, and Gregory P. Sautter, Minneapolis City
Attorney’s Office, 350 South 5th St., City Hall, Room 210, Minneapolis, MN 55415 for
Defendant City of Minneapolis.
SUSAN RICHARD NELSON, United States District Judge
This matter is before the Court on Defendants’ Motions for Summary Judgment
(“Mots. for Summ. J.”) [Doc. Nos. 334, 339]. For the reasons set forth below, the Motions
for Summary Judgment are granted and Plaintiffs’ claims based on accesses that occurred
prior to September 15, 2009 are dismissed.
A. Procedural History
Plaintiffs Jessica Leah Kampschroer and Cory Patrick Kampschroer (collectively,
the “Kampschroers”) assert claims under the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (the
“DPPA”) against Defendants. (See Second Am. Compl. [Doc. No. 20].) In relevant part,
the DPPA prohibits accessing an individual’s private motor vehicle records without a
permissible purpose. 18 U.S.C. §§ 2721(b), 2722(a). The Kampschroers allege that
Defendants accessed Jessica’s private records approximately 1,400 times, and Cory’s
records 92 times, for impermissible reasons between 2003 and 2013. (See Second Am.
Compl. at ¶¶ 2–3.) Defendants are state and municipal entities—or divisions or agencies
of those entities—such as counties, cities, police departments, and sheriffs’ departments.
Notably, the Driver and Vehicle Services Division (“DVS”) of the Minnesota Department
of Public Safety (“DPS”) is not a Defendant.
Defendants previously moved to dismiss the Kampschroers’ claims. (See Mots. to
Dismiss [Doc. Nos. 54, 93, 99, 110, 116, 121, 126, 130, 131, 138, 141, 151, 155, 164].)
The Court granted in part and denied in part these motions. See Kampschroer v. Anoka
Cty., 57 F. Supp. 3d 1124 (D. Minn. 2014), aff’d, 840 F.3d 961 (8th Cir. 2016). In
relevant part, the Court held that the DPPA’s four-year statute of limitations barred all of
the Kampschroers’ claims related to accesses that occurred prior to September 15, 2009,
unless equitable tolling applied.
Id. at 1136.
The Kampschroers alleged that Pat
McCormack (“McCormack”), the director of DVS, made “intentional and fraudulent”
misrepresentations to them about the extent of Defendants’ improper accesses, which
caused the Kampschroers not to investigate the issue further. (See Second Am. Compl. at
Notably, the Kampschroers did not allege that anyone other than
McCormack misled them on this subject. Based on these allegations, the Court allowed
limited discovery on the issue of equitable tolling.1 Kampschroer, 57 F. Supp. 3d at
The parties engaged in equitable tolling-related discovery and Defendants now
move for summary judgment, arguing that equitable tolling does not apply and thus the
Kampschroers’ claims based on accesses before September 15, 2009 are time-barred.
(See Mots. for Summ. J.)
The Kampschroers contend that disputed material facts
preclude summary judgment, or that the Court should decline to rule on the equitable
tolling issue until additional discovery is completed. (See Pls.’ Mem. in Opp. to Mots.
for Summ. J. (“Pls.’ Mem. in Opp.”) at 1–2 [Doc. No. 344].)
1. The Kampschroers
Jessica Kampschroer, who before her marriage to Cory Kampschroer was Jessica
Miles (“Miles”2), has been a broadcast journalist since 1999. (Aff. of Stephanie A.
Angolkar (“Angolkar Aff.”) [Doc. No. 337], Ex. 1 (“Miles Dep.”) at 11–133 [Doc. No.
337-1].) Since 2003, Miles has been a news anchor and reporter for KSTP and KSTC,
which are both owned by Hubbard Broadcasting. (Id. at 13–14.) Cory Kampschroer
The Court, however, held that claims based on accesses before May of 2004 were timebarred. Kampschroer, 57 F. Supp. 3d at 1138.
The majority of the relevant facts occurred before the Kampschroers were married.
Thus, for the sake of clarity, the Court refers to Jessica Kampschroer by her maiden
For all depositions, the Court cites to the page numbers as they appear in the deposition
(“Cory”)4 has also been a journalist since 1999. (Angolkar Aff., Ex. 2 (“Cory Dep.”) at
15 [Doc. No. 337-2].) From 2006 until 2010, he was a news anchor and reporter for
WCCO. (Id. at 16.) Since 2010, Cory has worked for Hubbard Broadcasting as its
Digital Media Director. (Id. at 14.) The Kampschroers began dating in 2006 and were
married in 2009. (Miles Dep. at 8–9.) They were living together in 2008. (Id. at 9.)
2. DVS, the Databases, and Audits
As previously described, DVS is a division of DPS and McCormack was at all
relevant times its director. (See Angolkar Aff., Ex. 4 (“McCormack Dep.”) at 14–15, 18–
19 [Doc. No. 337-4].) In 2008, DPS maintained two databases—E-Support (sometimes
referred to as the “DVS Database”) and LE-Support—that contained personal
information about Minnesota citizens such as name, address, driving record, motor
vehicle records, warrants, etc. (See id. at 11–14, 26–27, 90.) The databases contained
some of the same information, but the agencies and entities accessing these databases did
so for different purposes. (Id. at 12, 21.) DVS employees used E-Support in connection
with their duties related to drivers’ licenses and vehicle records, while state, county, and
municipal law enforcement agencies used LE-Support, but also had access to E-Support.
(Id. at 14, 27–28, 35, 159.) In 2008, an information technology (“IT”) department within
DPS was responsible for overseeing the technical aspects of the E-Support and LESupport databases. (Id. at 19, 89.) This IT department did not report to McCormack or
DVS, but rather to the Commissioner of DPS. (Id. at 20.)
McCormack’s responsibilities included supervising DVS employees and handling
For the sake of clarity, the Court refers to Mr. Kampschroer by his first name, Cory.
discipline-related issues. (Id. at 19.) Part of her responsibilities included monitoring and
auditing DVS employees’ use of the E-Support database to ensure that their accesses
were only for permissible purposes (i.e., job related and not out of personal curiosity).
(See id. at 29, 32, 36, 51–52, 140.) McCormack did not conduct the audits herself, but
rather asked the IT department to run audits. (Id. at 29, 91–92.) McCormack would then
review summaries of the audits, but not the audits themselves. (Id. at 112–14.)
Occasionally, the DPS Commissioner would ask McCormack to assist with
auditing law enforcement’s use of the databases. (See id. at 30–31, 35.) For example, if
DPS received a complaint about a law enforcement agency’s accesses and wanted to
audit that agency’s use of E-Support, the Commissioner would ask McCormack to
perform that audit. (See id. at 34–35, 134.) However, McCormack would only audit law
enforcement accesses under such “special circumstances”—she had no authority to
undertake such an audit on her own. (Id. at 35–36, 40.) McCormack explained that in
2008 she “didn’t deal with law enforcement data” and that “law enforcement data was a
whole different issue that was handled through . . . the Commissioner’s office.” (Id. at
75.) As a general matter, McCormack did not oversee law enforcement agencies’ use of
the databases and did not receive audit reports on such use. (Id. at 75–76.) Although law
enforcement agencies had access to E-Support, DVS did not monitor their use of that
database. (Id. at 159.)
3. The 2008 DVS Audit
In early 2008, McCormack had an “internal audit” done as part of her efforts to
supervise and monitor her employees’ use of E-Support. (McCormack Dep. at 43–44,
47–49.) For instance, this audit looked at whether DVS employees were accessing the
database outside of work hours—a strong indication that such accesses were improper.
(See id. at 141–42.) The internal audit revealed that two DVS employees had accessed
Miles’ records. (See id. at 50, 59–60, 95, 169–71.) These accesses were investigated and
McCormack testified that the accesses of one employee were deemed to be improper.
(See id. 96–97, 100, 169–74.) The employee who improperly accessed Miles’ records
was disciplined. (See id. at 56–58, 137–38.)
The scope of this internal audit is important to the parties’ arguments. The audit
did not encompass law enforcement or non-DVS county and municipal agencies. (See id.
at 169 (confirming that the audit was limited to DVS staff).) The following exchange
from McCormack’s deposition describes the scope of the audit:
Okay. So do you recall specifically whether you then took the
subjects of the accesses done by that particular employee and [sic] to see all
of the accesses done by anyone of that employee including state and county
law enforcement personnel?
No, we have no authority over law enforcement. We wouldn’t be
doing anything to do with law enforcement. …
Let me restate that. So any subject – any audit of the subject of that
employee’s access would not have encompassed any county or state
employee unless they worked for the deputy registrar’s office or the drivers
Well, I wouldn’t because that’s the only people that I had any type
of oversight on. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to do that or made that
Okay. So when you ran these internal audits, you would not look at
any accesses from any non-DVS employees except for the deputy registrars
and drivers license people, correct?
(Id. at 45–46 (emphasis added).)
4. McCormack Contacts Miles
In late May of 2008, McCormack sent a letter to Miles regarding the DVS
employee’s accesses of her information. (Angolkar Aff., Ex. 3 (“May 2008 DVS Letter”)
[Doc. No. 337-3]; McCormack Dep. at 41–42.) The letter was on DPS letterhead, but
clearly addressed a DVS employee only. (May 2008 DVS Letter.)
Specifically, the letter informed Miles that after an “internal audit,” DVS
discovered that an “employee” had viewed Miles’ driving record without authorization.
(Id.) It went on to state that there was no indication Miles’ private data was used
inappropriately, but rather that the “employee accessed private data for the [sic] purposes
that were not work-related.” (Id.) The letter apologized, noted that DVS had “taken the
appropriate and allowable disciplinary actions necessary to address this matter with the
employee,” and stated that DVS would “address and reinforce its data privacy
practices with other staff” and “continue to monitor employee use.”
deposition, McCormack confirmed that the reference to continued monitoring of
“employee use” was intended to refer to DVS employees only and not to any law
enforcement officers. (McCormack Dep. at 65.) Nowhere is there any mention of county
or municipal agencies, or any state agency other than DPS. However, because the May
2008 DVS Letter was on DPS letterhead, Miles assumed—erroneously—that it
“include[d] everyone,” specifically, “city and county employees.” (Miles Dep. at 109.)
Shortly after receiving the May 2008 DVS Letter, Miles called McCormack to
discuss its contents.5
(Miles Dep. at 26–27.)
Miles took notes during this call.
(Angolkar Aff., Ex. 5 (“Miles’ First Call Notes”) [Doc. No. 337-5]; Miles Dep. at 30–
31.) Those notes read:
had checked a celebrity out of curiosity
just info on front of drivers license
following up w/ disciplinary process until final is reached
person does not live in the metro
not used for any purpose, info not copied down
don’t believe this indvl. would fit profile of being concerned about
(Miles’ First Call Notes.) McCormack would not identify the specific DVS employee for
privacy reasons. (Miles Dep. at 32.) Miles states that she “was probably a little bit
confused about the scope of the investigation” based on the May 2008 DVS Letter and
her conversation with McCormack. (Id. at 33.) However, Miles admits that McCormack
never represented that she was investigating city or county employees. (Id. at 45, 109.)
There is no evidence that Miles ever requested that McCormack perform a more thorough
audit, or provide her with the results of the internal audit that precipitated the May 2008
Miles believes that during the call, McCormack represented something to the
effect that this was an “isolated incident.”
(Miles Dep. at 112–13, 119, 171.)
McCormack recalls talking to Miles about the May 2008 DVS Letter, although she
cannot recall whether Miles contacted her after receiving the letter, or if she contacted
Miles just before sending the letter. (Id. at 41, 53–54, 126–27.)
McCormack states that she only told Miles what she knew—that a DVS employee
accessed Miles’ records for an unauthorized purpose. (See McCormack Dep. at 69–71.)
The limited nature of what McCormack knew and communicated to Miles during this call
is evident in this exchange from her deposition:
And because you don’t know about all of the other accesses that
would have been made on Ms. Miles, of Ms. Miles’ DL or DVS data, you
certainly wouldn’t have told her that this was an, quote, isolated incident,
It was isolated in terms of when I talked to her that was the only
incident I was aware of. …
Well, when you spoke to her, would you ever have represented to
her that this was the only incident in which her data had been improperly
breached and that there were no other individuals that would have accessed
her information improperly, would you have ever made that representation
to her in any way or form?
I think what I would have said to her is that this is the only instance
that I have proof of someone looking at your data. I would never have said
something as broad as what you just said. I would never have said that. …
But I may have said to her the only thing I have information on is this
lookup. I may have said something like that to her. …
And you wouldn’t have made any representations regarding any
accesses by any county or city employees?
I couldn’t have because I didn’t have any information on those
things at the time.
Yeah, and you were talking to her in the scope of being a single
audit of a single employee, correct?
(Id. at 69–73 (emphasis added); see also id. at 79–80, 157.) McCormack was clear that
she would not have discussed any accesses by county or city law enforcement personnel
with Miles because that was not something she knew about. (Id. at 86.) Miles confirmed
that McCormack never represented anything to her regarding accesses by county or city
employees. (Miles Dep. at 109.)
5. The Incident Involving Miles’ TCF Bank Account
In June of 2008, shortly after receiving the May 2008 DVS Letter and calling
McCormack, Miles received notifications from TCF Bank (“TCF”) about changes to her
personal bank account. (Miles Dep. at 34–35; Angolkar Aff., Exs. 6, 7 [Doc. Nos. 337-6,
337-7].) Miles had not authorized any changes to her account. (Miles Dep. at 28, 41.)
Understandably concerned and worried that these unauthorized changes were related to
the unauthorized accesses of her driving record by the DVS employee, Miles called
McCormack again.6 (Id. at 41, 46, 54, 59, 84.)
Miles took notes during this phone call as well. (Id. at 31–32, 45; Angolkar Aff.,
Ex. 9 (“Miles’ Second Call Notes”) [Doc. No. 337-9].)
Those notes indicate that
McCormack told her the following:
The DVS employee in question worked in the southwestern part of
That Miles could speak with TCF about what was going on
McCormack does not recall this phone conversation, but does not dispute that it
happened. (See McCormack Dep. at 67, 127.)
That DVS could not reopen the investigation into the employee without
That Miles could get more information from DVS through a court order or
subpoena, including the identity of the DVS employee7
That the DVS attorney was out of the office
(Miles’ Second Call Notes; see Miles Dep. at 47–55.) Miles claims that McCormack
again assured her that “that it was a one-time incident, it was an employee, and it was
taken care of.” (Miles Dep. at 52–53.) Miles believed McCormack’s reassurances that
this was a limited breach, that the employee was merely curious, and that she did not
need to be concerned. (Miles Dep. at 51.) Again, Miles did not request the internal audit,
or that DVS perform another, broader audit.
6. Miles Continues to Investigate
Despite believing what McCormack told her, Miles continued to investigate. On
June 15, 2008, Miles located the anchor script for a KSTP segment that aired early in
2008, describing a story about two DPS employees who were accused of looking at the
driving records of 400 people from their home computers. (Miles Dep. at 55–56, 61;
Angolkar Aff., Ex. 11 [Doc. No. 337-11].) It is unclear whether this report caused Miles
to suspect that others—not just the one DVS employee—had accessed her information,
but she admits it is possible. (Miles Dep. at 61–63.)
Days later, Miles went to James Barnum (“Barnum”), Deputy General Counsel at
Hubbard Broadcasting, and described to him the contents of the May 2008 DVS Letter,
her calls with McCormack, and the incident with her bank account. (Id. at 67.) Miles
McCormack believes that she may have told Miles that she could get more information
about the accesses of her records through a court order or subpoena. (McCormack Dep.
had consulted with Barnum about security issues in the past. (Id. at 65, 67–68.) Miles
authorized Barnum to reach out to DVS and TCF on her behalf. (Id. at 76.)
On June 18, 2008, Barnum sent McCormack a letter that reiterated what Miles was
told in the May 2008 DVS Letter, explained the incident with Miles’ bank account, and
asked that DVS cooperate with any investigation by TCF or law enforcement into
whether the incidents were connected.8 (Angolkar Aff., Ex. 15 (“Barnum Letter to
DVS”) [Doc. No. 337-15].) Barnum noted that Miles had authorized DVS to release to
him “any and all information relative to [DVS’s] investigation and/or handling of this
matter that would be accessible by Ms. Miles.” (Id.) However, this letter did not
specifically request that DVS provide Miles/Barnum with the audit it had performed, or
that it perform any additional audits.
McCormack does not remember receiving
Barnum’s letter, but admits that she must have since she replied via email several days
later to say that DVS would cooperate with any investigation by TCF. (McCormack Dep.
at 146–48; Angolkar Aff., Ex. 19 [Doc. No. 337-19].)
On June 19, 2008, Barnum received an anonymous letter. (Angolkar Aff., Ex. 16
[Doc. No. 337-16].) The letter related to DPS and the unlawful access of drivers’ data,
mentioned Miles specifically, and encouraged KSTP to investigate. (Id.; Angolkar Aff.,
Ex. 12 (“Barnum Dep.”) at 30–31 [Doc. No. 337-12].)
KSTP asserted journalistic
privilege over the anonymous letter and thus details about its contents are unavailable.
(Angolkar Aff., Ex. 16.) However, Barnum did share and discuss the letter with Miles in
Barnum sent similar letters to TCF asking that it investigate the unauthorized change to
Miles’ bank account and whether it was connected with the DVS employee’s accesses.
(Angolkar Aff., Ex. 17 [Doc. No. 337-17].)
the context of their investigation into DVS and TCF. (Barnum Dep. at 49–50; Angolkar
Aff., Ex. 21 [Doc. No. 337-21].)
Miles also continued investigating what had happened with the unauthorized
change to her bank account. On June 24, 2008, she emailed Barnum to explain that she
had located another “Jessica Miles” on Facebook. (Angolkar Aff., Ex. 18 [Doc. No. 33718].) This Jessica Miles had grown up in Maple Grove, where Miles had recently
resided, and had just enrolled at Mankato State University, where the unauthorized
change to Miles’ bank account was made. (Id.) Miles stated that she was “sure that’s
where the mix-up occurred.” (Id.) Still, Miles wanted to know how TCF made this
“major mistake” and also “what information was accessed and by whom in the
Department of Public Safety.” (Id.)
Days later, on July 2, 2008, TCF notified Barnum and Miles that the unauthorized
changes to Miles’ account were the result of an innocent mistake when the other “Jessica
Miles” sought to change her TCF account and a TCF employee accidentally selected
Miles’ account. (Barnum Dep. at 47–48; Miles Dep. at 87.) TCF confirmed that Miles’
personal information was not provided to the other “Jessica Miles.” (Angolkar Aff., Ex.
21.) Miles believed TCF and no longer thought that the unauthorized change to her bank
account was related to the DVS employee’s access of her data.9 (Miles Dep. at 92.)
In the complaint, Plaintiffs alleged that “upon information and belief, the access of
[Miles’] private data of which she was informed by the DPS was related to the fraudulent
access of her TCF bank account.” (Second Am. Compl. at ¶ 425.) This is plainly
inaccurate given that Miles knew and believed that these events were unrelated as early
as July of 2008.
7. The 2013 DNR Letter
From July 2008 until early 2013, there is no evidence Miles did anything further to
investigate whether her data was accessed by anyone else. At no point did Miles ever
request that DPS or DVS provide her with an audit of the accesses of her private data
contained on the databases. There is no evidence that DVS, or any other entity, contacted
Miles about such accesses during this time. In fact, Miles was never contacted by
Defendants regarding accesses of her records before this litigation commenced. (Miles
Dep. at 30.)
In January 2013, Miles received a letter from the Minnesota Department of
Natural Resources (“DNR”) informing her that an employee of that agency had accessed
and viewed her private data without a permissible purpose. (Angolkar Aff., Ex. 34 [Doc.
No. 337-34].) After receiving this letter, Miles and Cory requested and received audits
that showed all the entities that accessed their private data between 2003 and 2013.
(Miles Dep. at 154–55; Cory Dep. at 46.) These audits showed numerous accesses by a
variety of state, county, and municipal agencies over many years. (See Second Am.
Compl., Exs. A, B [Doc Nos. 20-1, 20-2].) Many of these accesses occurred before May
of 2008. (See id.) This lawsuit followed in September of 2013.
8. Cory Kampschroer
Cory never had any communications with DPS, DVS, or any other agency
regarding accesses of his private data on the databases until 2013 when he requested an
audit. (Angolkar Aff., Ex. 22 [Doc. No. 337-22].) Cory never communicated with
McCormack directly. (Cory Dep. at 45; McCormack Dep. at 77.) Instead, Cory believes
he listened in on one or more of Miles’ conversations with McCormack in 2008—which
he thinks were on speakerphone—and knows he was shown the May 2008 DVS Letter
that Miles received. (Cory Dep. at 30, 48–50.) However, Cory never received any letter
regarding accesses of his private data and agrees that all of the conversations he
overheard were specifically about Miles, not him. (Id. at 37, 51.) Miles and Cory also
discussed her communications with McCormack, but these discussions were always
focused on the accesses of Miles’ data. (Id. at 28–29, 50.) Despite never speaking to
DPS, DVS, McCormack, or any Defendant about accesses of his data—or receiving any
communications on the subject—Cory felt “assured” that he did not have to worry about
such breaches based on what he overheard and learned from Miles.10 (See id. at 46–47,
62–63.) It was not until 2013 that Cory had any idea that his data was also accessed. (Id.
at 69, 71.)
A. Legal Standard
Summary judgment is proper if, drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the
non-moving party, there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50
Plaintiffs offer no case law to support their position that McCormack’s representations
to Miles in 2008—which McCormack made with no knowledge that they would be heard
by or shared with Cory—can serve as the basis for tolling the statute of limitations on
Cory’s claims, nor can the Court find any. However, the Court need not resolve this
issue since, as described below, it holds that the statute of limitations for Miles’ claims is
not tolled. If tolling does not apply to Miles, it also cannot apply to Cory.
(1986); Morriss v. BNSF Ry. Co., 817 F.3d 1104, 1107 (8th Cir. 2016). “Summary
judgment procedure is properly regarded not as a disfavored procedural shortcut, but
rather as an integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole, which are designed ‘to secure
the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action.’” Celotex, 477 U.S. at
327 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 1).
The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of showing that the
material facts in the case are undisputed.
Id. at 323.
However, a party opposing
summary judgment “‘may not rest upon the mere allegation or denials of his pleading,
but ... must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial,’ and
‘must present affirmative evidence in order to defeat a properly supported motion for
summary judgment.’” Ingrassia v. Schafer, 825 F.3d 891, 896 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256–57). “[T]he nonmoving party must ‘do more than simply
show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.’” Conseco Life Ins.
Co. v. Williams, 620 F.3d 902, 910 (8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co.,
v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)). Summary judgment is also proper
where the non-moving party fails “‘to make a showing sufficient to establish the
existence of an element essential to that party’s case . . . .’” Walz v. Ameriprise Fin., Inc.,
779 F.3d 842, 844 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322).
B. The DPPA and Its Statute of Limitations
The DPPA does not contain its own statute of limitations and thus is subject to the
catch-all, four-year statute of limitations in 28 U.S.C. § 1658(a). McDonough v. Anoka
Cty., 799 F.3d 931, 939 (8th Cir. 2015). The so-called discovery rule—which directs that
a statute of limitations begins to run when the plaintiff discovers, or with due diligence
should have discovered, that the alleged violation occurred—does not apply to the DPPA.
Id. at 940–43. Instead, a DPPA claim accrues and the statute of limitations begins to run
when the improper access occurs. Id. at 943. As the Eighth Circuit explained, “even if
[DPPA plaintiffs] had no reason to know of the alleged accesses, unlike violations
grounded in fraud, latent disease, or medical malpractice, DPPA violations are not by
their nature self-concealing.” Id.; see Foudy v. Indian River Cty. Sheriff’s Office, 845
F.3d 1117, 1125 (11th Cir. 2017) (holding that DPPA violations were not selfconcealing—because they did not involve fraud or deception—and thus equitable tolling
was unavailable on that basis). “Furthermore, faded memories and time-lost evidence
pertaining to the disclosure, obtainment, or use of data are the types of considerations that
statutes of limitation are intended to address.” McDonough, 799 F.3d at 943.
As previously discussed, the Kampschroers brought suit on September 15, 2013.
See supra Part I.A. Thus, in the absence of the application of an equitable doctrine, the
Kampschroers’ claims based on accesses before September 15, 2009 must be dismissed
C. Potential Equitable Theories
It is not entirely clear which equitable theory the Kampschroers believe should
apply. They advance arguments related to equitable tolling, equitable estoppel, and
(See Pls.’ Mem. in Opp. at 24–37.)
The Court briefly
distinguishes these various equitable theories.
Parties and the courts frequently “blur” the “related yet distinct doctrines” of
equitable tolling and equitable estoppel. Dring v. McDonnell Douglas Corp., 58 F.3d
1323, 1328 (8th Cir. 1995). Relief under either doctrine is an exception to the rule set by
a statute of limitations “and should therefore be used only in exceptional circumstances.”
Id. at 1330; see Firstcom, Inc. v. Qwest Corp., 555 F.3d 669, 675 (8th Cir. 2009)
(“Because statutes of limitations protect important interests of certainty, accuracy, and
repose, equitable tolling is an exception to the rule, and should therefore be used only in
exceptional circumstances.” (citation omitted)); Jenkins v. Mabus, 646 F.3d 1023, 1028
(8th Cir. 2011) (holding that equitable tolling and equitable estoppel should be employed
“sparingly” because they involve the waiver of sovereign immunity). The plaintiff bears
the burden of proving that one or both of these doctrines applies to save his/her claim.
Jenkins, 646 F.3d at 1028. However, “[w]hile equitable tolling extends to circumstances
outside both parties’ control, the related doctrines of equitable estoppel and fraudulent
concealment may bar a defendant from enforcing a statute of limitation when its own
deception prevented a reasonably diligent plaintiff from bringing a timely claim.”
Sebelius v. Auburn Reg’l Med. Ctr., 568 U.S. 145, 164 (2013) (Sotomayor, J.
“The doctrine of equitable tolling permits a plaintiff to sue after the statutory time
period has expired if he has been prevented from doing so due to inequitable
circumstances.” Firstcom, 555 F.3d at 675 (citation omitted).
“Equitable tolling is
appropriate when the plaintiff, despite all due diligence, is unable to obtain vital
information bearing on the existence of his claim. Equitable tolling does not require any
misconduct on the part of the defendant.” Bell v. Fowler, 99 F.3d 262, 266 n.2 (8th Cir.
1996) (emphasis added) (citations omitted). To invoke tolling, the plaintiff must prove
that: (1) he diligently pursued his rights, and (2) “some extraordinary circumstance stood
in his way.” Pace v. DiGuglielmo, 544 U.S. 408, 418 (2005).
In contrast, “[e]quitable estoppel presupposes that the plaintiff knows of the facts
underlying the cause of action but delayed filing suit because of the defendant’s
conduct.” Bell, 99 F.3d at 266 n.2 (emphasis added). “To show equitable estoppel, a
plaintiff must be aware of her claim, but fail to file timely due either to the [defendant’s]
deliberate design, or to [the defendant’s] acts that it should unmistakably have understood
would cause the [plaintiff] to delay . . . .” Jenkins, 646 F.3d at 1028. Thus, the focus is
on the defendant’s conduct and the plaintiff must prove that the defendant prevented
him/her from suing in a timely fashion.11 Id. at 1027–28.
Here, the Kampschroers’ arguments rest entirely on the alleged misrepresentations
of DVS-DPS through its agent, McCormack. DPS is a not a Defendant. Conspicuously
missing is any evidence that any of the county, municipal, or state Defendants made any
effort to mislead or deceive the Kampschroers about the extent of the improper accesses.
Fraudulent concealment, which is “very similar to the discovery rule[,]” saves a
plaintiff’s non-fraud claims from a statute of limitations where the defendant
“fraudulently concealed the facts underlying the cause of action.” TCF Nat. Bank v. Mkt.
Intelligence, Inc., 812 F.3d 701, 711 (8th Cir. 2016). “The defending party must have
taken affirmative acts intended to, and successful in, preventing discovery of the cause of
action.” Id. With its focus on a defendant’s attempts at deception, fraudulent
concealment is essentially indistinct from equitable estoppel. However, fraudulent
concealment is sometimes invoked as the basis for employing equitable tolling. See
Jones v. Frost, 770 F.3d 1183, 1185 (8th Cir. 2014). Regardless, Plaintiffs’ arguments
related to fraudulent concealment fail for the same reasons their arguments regarding
tolling and estoppel fail.
Nor is there any evidence that would warrant imputing McCormack’s representations to
The Kampschroers cite no case law, and the Court can find none, suggesting that
the misrepresentations of a third party may serve as the basis to invoke equitable
estoppel. Rather, the case law makes clear that only a defendant’s conduct is relevant to
the estoppel inquiry. See Dring, 58 F.3d at 1329; Bell, 99 F.3d at 266 n.2; Jenkins, 646
F.3d at 1028; Loeffler v. City of Anoka, No. 13-cv -2060 (MJD/TNL), 2016 WL 7971214,
at *5 (D. Minn. Oct. 25, 2016), report and recommendation adopted, No. 13-cv-2060
(MJD/TNL), 2017 WL 123424 (D. Minn. Jan. 12, 2017) (refusing to employ equitable
estoppel to save a plaintiff’s DPPA claims where DPS, not the named municipal
defendants, allegedly prevented the plaintiff from discovering her claims).
equitable estoppel cannot save the Kampschroers’ claims.
However, the deceptive
conduct of a third party might constitute the sort of extraordinary circumstance outside
the parties’ control that warrants equitable tolling. See Bell, 99 F.3d at 266 n.2 (tolling
requires no misconduct by the defendant); Sebelius, 568 U.S. at 164 (tolling applies to
circumstances outside the parties’ control). The Court considers this issue below.
Plaintiffs argue that they should have the opportunity to conduct additional discovery
aimed at producing evidence that Defendants colluded with DPS to disguise the extent of
the accesses of Plaintiffs’ private data. (See Pls.’ Mem. in Opp. at 21–23, 36–37.)
However, Plaintiffs have never alleged that any such collusion took place. Their
allegations regarding equitable tolling focus exclusively on McCormack and DPS, not
any of the county, municipal, or other state Defendants. (See Second Am. Compl. at ¶¶
410–26.) The Court will not allow Plaintiffs to engage in additional discovery based on
their newly hatched collusion theory. To do otherwise would allow Plaintiffs to utilize
discovery as an impermissible fishing expedition. See Braden v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.,
588 F.3d 585, 598 (8th Cir. 2009); N.L.R.B. v. Davenport Lutheran Home, 244 F.3d 660,
663 (8th Cir. 2001).
D. Equitable Tolling
The Kampschroers’ arguments revolve around a single central theme: disputed
material facts preclude summary judgment on the issue of equitable tolling. (See Pls.’
Mem. in Opp. at 24–32.) For instance, they argue that a jury must decide whether it was
reasonable for Miles to believe that the references to an “internal audit” that found a DVS
“employee” had improperly accessed her private data—coupled with McCormack’s
assurance that this was an “isolated incident”—meant that no other entities had
improperly accessed her data. (Id. at 25–27.) Similarly, the Kampschroers contend that a
jury might conclude that McCormack knew—or should have taken steps to discover—the
extent of the accesses of Miles’ private data by other entities (e.g., Defendants), yet failed
to communicate that information to Miles. (See id. at 27–32.)
As previously discussed, to successfully invoke equitable tolling a plaintiff must
prove that: (1) he diligently pursued his rights, and (2) “some extraordinary circumstance
stood in his way.” Pace, 544 U.S. at 418. A “positive act of fraud, something so
furtively planned and secretly executed as to keep the plaintiff’s cause of action
concealed[,]” would warrant tolling. Jones v. Frost, 770 F.3d 1183, 1186 (8th Cir. 2014)
(citation omitted). Similarly, tolling might be appropriate where there was conduct that
“lulled the plaintiff into inaction.” Kreutzer v. Bowersox, 231 F.3d 460, 463 (8th Cir.
2000); see Irwin v. Dep’t of Veterans Affairs, 498 U.S. 89, 96 (1990) (holding that tolling
was warranted where “the complainant has been induced or tricked by his adversary’s
misconduct into allowing the filing deadline to pass”). However, tolling will not apply
even where there was fraud if the plaintiff “could have discovered the fraud or sufficient
other facts on which to bring [a] lawsuit, through a reasonable effort.” Jones, 770 F.3d at
1186 (citation omitted) (alteration in original); see Johnson v. Berry, 171 F. Supp. 2d
985, 989 (E.D. Mo. 2001) (“[A] plaintiff who unreasonably relies on the reassurances of
a wrongdoer has not satisfied this obligation of due diligence.” (citation omitted)).
Again, tolling is appropriate only in rare cases with “exceptional circumstances
truly beyond the plaintiff’s control.” Jenkins, 646 F.3d at 1028–29. Tolling does not
apply where a plaintiff is aware of the facts underlying his/her claim, but is ignorant as to
their legal significance. See Jenkins, 646 F.3d at 1029; Shaver v. Astrue, 783 F. Supp. 2d
1072, 1076 (N.D. Iowa 2011); Johnson, 171 F. Supp. 2d at 990. Confusion regarding the
applicable statute of limitations does not warrant tolling. See Kreutzer, 231 F.3d at 463.
“Even in the case of an unrepresented prisoner alleging a lack of legal knowledge or legal
resources, equitable tolling has not been warranted. Thus, tolling is even less appropriate
in a case where the petitioner is represented by counsel.” Id. (citations omitted).
Numerous courts have found that tolling is unavailable in the context of the
DPPA. In one case, the plaintiffs argued that tolling should save their claims because
they did not know about any accesses of their private data until they received a letter
from the Minnesota DNR regarding improper accesses by one of its employees.13 Kost v.
Hunt, 983 F. Supp. 2d 1121, 1130 (D. Minn. 2013). The plaintiffs asserted that they had
no reason to request an audit of their records until they received this notification. Id. The
court refused to apply tolling under these circumstances, reasoning that “treating
The Kampschroers received a similar letter involving the same Minnesota DNR
employee. See supra Part I.B.7.
Plaintiffs’ mere lack of knowledge of an injury—in the absence of any external factor
that stood in their way of discovery—as sufficient for equitable tolling, would essentially
create an end-run around the Court’s finding that the discovery rule does not apply to
DPPA claims.” Id. A plaintiff’s misunderstanding about the need to request an audit
from DPS to discover all of his/her DPPA claims also does not warrant tolling. See
Smythe v. City of Onamia, No. 12-cv-3149 (ADM/LIB), 2014 WL 4096966, at *4 (D.
Minn. Aug. 19, 2014) (holding that while a pro se plaintiff’s “difficulties” in obtaining
information about the accesses of his private data were “understandable,” they did not
“rise to the extraordinary level required for tolling”). Even where DPS initially refused a
plaintiff’s audit request—demanding that the plaintiff provide a “specific reason” for the
audit—equitable tolling failed to save that plaintiff’s DPPA claims. See Loeffler, 2016
WL 7971214 at *1, 5.
The Kampschroers’ arguments for equitable tolling fail for at least four reasons.
First, there is no evidence that McCormack intended to deceive or mislead Miles.
McCormack relayed to Miles what she knew—that an “internal audit” produced evidence
that a DVS/DPS “employee” improperly accessed Miles’ private data and she referred to
that incident as “isolated.”
See supra Part I.B.4–5. The fact that Miles apparently
misunderstood the scope of what McCormack was telling her is not evidence that
McCormack intended to deceive her. See Bell, 99 F.3d at 266–69 (holding that the
defendant did not intend to mislead or deceive the plaintiff where he inadvertently
provided the plaintiff with incorrect information and failed to provide the correct
information when he later learned of the mistake); Jenkins, 646 F.3d at 1028 (finding no
intent to deceive or mislead despite the defendant creating “some confusion” about
how/if the plaintiff could file her harassment claim); Miller v. Runyon, 32 F.3d 386, 390
(8th Cir. 1994) (denying tolling where the plaintiff merely misunderstood accurate
information provided by the defendant). Notably, McCormack even told Miles how she
could get more information with a court order or subpoena, refuting the assertion that
McCormack hoped to keep Miles in the dark. See supra Part I.B.5.
Second, the Kampschroers fail to establish that their situation differs from that of
any other DPPA plaintiff. In fact, the evidence shows that they were in a better position
to discover their claims than many other plaintiffs. In May of 2008, Miles was informed
that a DVS employee had accessed her private data for improper reasons, alerting her to
the facts underlying at least one DPPA claim. Even if Miles did not understand the legal
significance of those facts, tolling is unwarranted. See Jenkins, 646 F.3d at 1029; Shaver,
783 F. Supp. 2d at 1076; Johnson, 171 F. Supp. 2d at 990. McCormack told Miles how
she could get additional information, but even if Miles was confused about the need to
request an audit of her records, that cannot form the basis for equitable tolling. See
Smythe, 2014 WL 4096966 at *4.
Despite believing that the accesses of her private data were isolated, Miles
engaged in her own investigation. See supra Part I.B.6. In this process, Miles had the
assistance of an attorney, a fact that weighs against tolling. See Kreutzer, 231 F.3d at
463. Moreover, during her investigation she discovered evidence suggesting that there
were widespread improper accesses of drivers’ private data and even received an
anonymous tip on this subject that specifically mentioned her. See supra Part I.B.6.
Despite these discoveries—and McCormack’s advice on how Miles could obtain more
information with a court order or subpoena—Miles never sought an order or subpoena,
nor did she even request that DPS provide her with the audit. See Loeffler, 2016 WL
7971214 at *1, 5 (refusing to apply equitable tolling even where DPS rejected the
plaintiff’s request for an audit). In short, Miles had reason to believe that her private data
was improperly accessed and could have, with reasonable effort, discovered the extent of
the accesses. Her failure to do so—even if the result of her misunderstandings about the
scope of information McCormack provided her, or confusion about what she needed to
do to get additional information—means tolling is unavailable. See Jones, 770 F.3d at
1186; see Johnson, 171 F. Supp. 2d at 989.
Third, the Kampschroers argue that tolling is appropriate because McCormack
“recklessly failed to initiate a more thorough audit” despite having reason to believe that
there were widespread improper accesses of Miles’ data. (See Pls.’ Mem. in Opp. at 29–
30.) However, they offer no factual support or case law in support of this proposition and
the Court can find none. Moreover, the Kampschroers have no claim against DPS for its
alleged negligence in failing to investigate. See Potocnik v. Carlson, 9 F. Supp. 3d 981,
992 (D. Minn. 2014) (holding that the DPPA does not impose a duty of care on DPS in
creating and maintaining the databases); Tichich v. City of Bloomington, No. 14-cv-298
(DSD/SER), 2014 WL 3928530, at *3 (D. Minn. Aug. 12, 2014), aff’d, 835 F.3d 856 (8th
Cir. 2016) (holding that the DPPA does not impose a duty of care on DPS to make
reasonable efforts to ensure that users have a permissible purpose for their accesses).
Fourth, allowing equitable tolling here would substantially prejudice Defendants.
See Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 750, 757 n.5
(2016) (holding that prejudice to the defendant is a factor to considered when deciding
equitable tolling). If tolling were allowed, the parties, the Court, and a jury would have
to discern whether accesses that occurred nine or more years ago were for a proper
purpose. As Defendants point out, their ability to defend against these claims would be
severely hampered by faded memories and the fact that many of the employees at issue
have since left their employment or passed away. (Minneapolis’ Mem. in Supp. at 16–
17, 29–31 [Doc. No. 341].) The understandable difficulties associated with recalling
events from so long ago, let alone producing documentary evidence from that time, are
evident in the testimony of McCormack, Miles, and Cory. (See, e.g., McCormack Dep. at
20–21, 28, 41–42, 46–47, 56, 61, 66–67, 92, 97, 100; Miles Dep. at 49, 67, 70, 101, 112–
13, 145; Cory Dep. at 13, 28, 39, 54–55.) These difficulties and the prejudice that
accompanies them are the reason for the four-year statute of limitations on DPPA claims
and weigh against tolling here. See McDonough, 799 F.3d at 943; Firstcom, 555 F.3d at
675; Kost, 983 F. Supp. 2d at 1130.
Based on the foregoing, and all the files, records, and proceedings herein, IT IS
HEREBY ORDERED THAT:
1. Defendants’ Motions for Summary Judgment [Doc. Nos. 334, 339] are
GRANTED as follows:
a. Plaintiffs’ claims based on accesses of their private data that occurred
before September 15, 2009 are time-barred and DISMISSED with
2. It is unclear from the record whether any Defendants may be dismissed
because all of their alleged accesses occurred before September 15, 2009.
Defendants are ordered to file a brief accounting of which Defendants may
properly be dismissed from this case by virtue of this Order, no later than
August 14, 2017. If Plaintiffs disagree with Defendants’ accounting, they may
file objections no later than August 21, 2017.
3. The parties are ordered to immediately contact Magistrate Judge Leung’s
chambers for the purpose of obtaining an expedited schedule for any remaining
discovery. This case will be made trial ready as soon as is practicable.
Dated: August 2, 2017
s/ Susan Richard Nelson
SUSAN RICHARD NELSON
United States District Judge
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