Orduno v. Pietrzak, No. 17-3437 (8th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff filed suit against the police chief, the city, and other public officials, alleging violations of the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA). After the police chief admitted liability for six violations of the Act, the jury awarded plaintiff punitive damages. The district court ruled that plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence that the city was directly liable for the violations, but authorized the jury's finding that the city was vicariously liable for the police chief's actions.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by ruling that plaintiff's proposed class failed to satisfy the numerosity requirement of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) and the predominance requirement of Rule 23(b)(3); the district court properly refused to entertain direct liability against the city where the police chief acted for personal reasons, not under the auspices of official policymaking authority, and thus his actions did not represent a policy of the city; the district court correctly construed the civil action provisions of the Act to incorporate background tort-related rules of vicarious liability; the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding certain evidence at trial; and the district court did not err in declining to award requested costs. The court rejected plaintiff's remaining claims and denied the city's motion to strike portions of plaintiff's appendix and brief.
Court Description: Colloton, Author, with Loken and Kelly, Circuit Judges] Civil case - Driver's Privacy Protection Act. The circumstances of each obtainment of information from the driver's license database would have varied from class member to class member, and the district court did not err in denying plaintiff's motion to certify a class; the district court did not err in denying plaintiff's motion for reconsideration of that order as plaintiff's new evidence did not alter the calculus on the predominance issue; without evidence that city officials knowingly caused Police Chief Pietrzak's impermissible actions, the City of Dayton cannot be directly liable; and without proof of willful or reckless disregard of the law, it follows the district court properly declined to allow punitive damages against the City of Dayton; assuming, without deciding that a plaintiff under DPPA may pursue a claim for municipal liability based on the Monell standards that govern municipal liability under Section 1983, the Chief's clandestine use of the database cannot fairly be said to represent official policy; in City's cross-appeal, the judgment that the City was vicariously liable for the Chief's violations of the DPPA is affirmed as the district court correctly construed the civil action provisions of the Act to incorporate background tort-related rules of vicarious liability; no error in excluding evidence of other occasions when the Chief obtained driver's license data as he had admitted liability flowing from the six unlawful obtainments; no error in excluding evidence of the City's response to the misconduct; reduction of plaintiff's request for attorneys' fees award was not an abuse of the court's discretion; DPPA does not explicitly authorize the taxation of expert witness fees as costs, and the district court did not err in declining to award them.