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Judge tosses data breach suit against state over DNR lookups

  • Blog Post by: Eric Roper
  • September 20, 2013 - 5:37 PM

A federal judge has dismissed a series of class action claims against the state, relating to a former Department of Natural Resources employee who allegedly snooped into thousands of drivers license records.

Five lawsuits seeking class action status were filed following revelations this winter that John Hunt, a manager at the DNR, allegedly accessed drivers license records 19,000 times -- many while he was off duty. The suits were brought on behalf of the 5,000 people who received data breach letters.

U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen granted a motion by Attorney General Lori Swanson's office to dismiss the cases Friday afternoon, sparing state agencies from exposure to millions in potential damages. The suits, which were consolidated, targeted both the DNR and the state Department of Public Safety, which oversees the drivers license database.

Ericksen said the state could not be held liable for Hunt's actions. "The complaint alleges no facts that make it plausible that the defendants 'knowingly' gave defendant Hunt database access 'for a purpose not permitted' by the DPPA [Drivers Privacy Protection Act]."

The would-be class action cases against the state are separate from the more than 20 lawsuits that have been filed against local governments across Minnesota over drivers license data snooping.

It appears that the cases remain active against Hunt himself, who was named as a defendant. Hunt is separately facing criminal charges with misuse of the database.

Here is the full ruling:

DVS Hunt Case Order by eric_roper

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