Court Sides with Defendant in Driver Privacy Litigation
In a recent Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (“DPPA”), 18 U.S.C. § 2721, et seq. case, a federal court in North Carolina denied plaintiffs’ motion for relief after the Court entered summary judgment in favor of several law office defendants who sent advertisements marketing legal services.
In Hatch v. Demayo, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55601 (M.D.N.C. Mar. 24, 2021), the plaintiffs—after being involved in car accidents—provided information from their driver’s licenses to law enforcement for the completion of DMV accident report forms. Shortly thereafter, plaintiffs claimed they received unsolicited marketing materials from various law offices. Plaintiffs then filed suit alleging that several law office defendants violated the DPPA by obtaining their information from the accident reports for the purpose of using the information to advertise legal services.
As the court noted, “[t]he DPPA holds liable certain parties for the misuse of a driver’s information if that data has been collected from a ‘motor vehicle record’.” A motor vehicle record means “any record that pertains to a motor vehicle operator’s permit, motor vehicle title, motor vehicle registration, or identification card issued by a department of motor vehicles.” 18 U.S.C. § 2725(1). In deciding defendants’ motion for summary judgment, the court noted that plaintiffs failed to allege that the DMV form was a motor vehicle record. When denying plaintiffs’ motion for relief, the Court further reasoned that plaintiffs’ argument—that the DMV form was essentially a motor vehicle record because it relied on information taken from a driver’s license or DMV database—was insufficient. The court declined to leniently construe the allegations, stating that “Plaintiffs could have easily made the straightforward contention that DMV-349s were in fact motor vehicle records and chose not to do so.”
The Court also acknowledged plaintiffs’ reliance a decision out of the Western District of North Carolina (Gaston v. LexisNexis Risk Sols. Inc., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 160012 (W.D.N.C. Sep. 2, 2020)), but concluded that the “single, non-controlling case” reaching a different conclusion was not sufficient to support plaintiffs’ argument of clear error. The Court therefore denied plaintiffs’ motion for relief from judgment.