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Data-breach payouts top $1 million for ex-cop

  • Article by: ERIC ROPER
  • Star Tribune
  • November 3, 2012 - 12:30 AM

A former cop who sued a number of Minnesota cities after their employees snooped into her driver's license data has collected more than $1 million in settlements, following Minneapolis' approval of a $392,500 payout Friday.

The City Council approved the settlement related to Anne Rasmusson's lawsuit after their meeting Friday morning. It comes on the heels of similar settlements from St. Paul and other cities in the metro area, leaving only the state's public safety commissioners -- current and former -- as major defendants in the suit.

City Attorney Susan Segal said they weighed the potential costs of moving forward with the suit, which would have included staff time, police time and the risk of paying attorneys' fees. Federal statutes also outline minimum damages of about $2,500 per unauthorized lookup.

"We knew that there was quite a range of potential risk in this case," Segal said. "So we decided that the settlement was well within that range and was the wisest course to follow."

Rasmusson, a former Eden Prairie and St. Paul officer, sued more than 16 jurisdictions and recently named more than 140 officers she believes improperly viewed her information.

The access was most prevalent in the Twin Cities, where 46 Minneapolis police employees and 61 St. Paul police employees accessed Rasmusson's data, she argued in court records. The filing shows that Rasmusson's information was accessed regularly, at all hours, over a six-year period.

One Eden Prairie officer encouraged subordinates to look up Rasmusson "because she was very attractive and so they could see that 'she's changed and she's got a new look,'" court records show.

Last month, the St. Paul City Council approved a $385,000 settlement, while settlements from other cities sued by Rasmusson totaled $280,000.

A Minneapolis police spokesman said last month that the department had tightened its access to the data in light of the Rasmusson case.

Segal said the city has had a "fairly low" number of lawsuit payouts this year, noting that the city resolves more than two-thirds of cases in court and wins "virtually all of them."

"We don't roll over easily on cases we've got. We're aggressive on them. When it makes sense, though, we will settle cases," Segal said.

Lorenz Fett, one of Rasmusson's attorneys with the Sapientia Law Group, said the Minneapolis settlement means the three largest sets of defendants have settled, but several counties and state organizations are still involved in the case. That's in addition to the public safety commissioners.

"I know that Anne Rasmusson is happy with this settlement," Fett said. "And I'm sure that both the city of St. Paul and city of Minneapolis and also the League of [Minnesota] Cities are all happy to resolve this matter and to be moving forward."

Eric Roper • 612-673-1732 Twitter: @StribRoper

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