On February 22, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted a defendant’s motion to dismiss in a Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (“DPPA”) putative class action, holding that the DPPA does not provide a private right of action against state officials in their official capacities. A copy of the Court’s decision can be found here.
As background, in July 2018, plaintiff Mary Nisi filed a putative class action against Dorothy Brown – the Clerk of the Cook County, Illinois Circuit Court – alleging that Brown violated the DPPA by allegedly disclosing “personal information” from a speeding ticket on public courthouse terminals. More specifically, the complaint alleged that “Defendant maintains electronic computer terminals at all courthouse locations where the public may search for, view, and print public documents including traffic citations.” The traffic citations include the following “personal information”: gender, date of birth, home address, and driver’s license number. Nisi further alleged that “[t]he information contained on said traffic citations originated from a motor vehicle record of the Illinois Secretary of State: namely, Plaintiff’s Driver’s License.” Nisi sought to represent a class of “all natural persons who were issued traffic citations within Cook County whose personally identifiable information was disclosed to the general public via the electronic terminal system of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County within four years prior to the filing of this action and extending through the resolution of this action.” Brown moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
In granting the motion to dismiss, the District Court held that Nisi’s claims must be dismissed against Brown “because the DPPA does not provide a private right of action against the Clerk in her official capacity.” In other words, “the DPPA does not provide a private right of action against state officials acting in their official capacities.” Indeed, the statute specifically excludes from the definition of “person” “a State or agency thereof.”
The Court dismissed Nisi’s complaint without prejudice, allowing her until March 22 to file an amended complaint “if she can in good faith present a theory of liability under which she could sue the Clerk in federal court.”
Troutman Sanders will continue to follow this case.