LEVENTHAL pllc has been on the threshold of trial twice this month. On one of these two (non) events, it got down to showing up at Court for day #1 of a week-long jury trial when the other side showed up, finally ready to pay money, not apparently all that ready or interested in going to trial. In the second case, we settled late Friday before an arbitration scheduled to start the following Wednesday (the day of this post, in fact).
So you will understand our incredulity that a “Drivers’ Privacy Protection Act” or “DPPA” case will actually go to trial, as scheduled, on June 10 in St. Paul before Sr. U.S. District Court Judge Donovan W. Frank. The case has been knocking around since December, 2013. Could this really happen?
There was a little cluster of DPPA cases that all came up about 6 years ago. They very often seemed to involve men in positions of public power or authority (for example, police officers) with access to state-controlled personal records (for example, drivers’ license records) looking at women’s pictures (and their personal information such as their addresses) without a proper or permissible purpose. Plaintiff Minneapolis Police Officer Amy Krekelberg found herself being “snooped” in this way.
The Court recently issued its pretrial order on evidentiary issues — deciding so-called motions in limine. Sometimes these dominoes fall one way or another leading one side or the other to re-assess its view of the prospects at trial.
One might wonder what facts are unknown or in dispute in these DPPA cases, where the digital evidence seems quite clear: many people seems to have been scoping out Officer Krekelberg without any official purpose or permission. (The City of Minneapolis denies this and Ms. Krekelberg will have to provide it to the jury, however (the City’s trial brief is linked).)
But, of course, it’s Officer Krekelberg’s damages that are probably really complicating efforts to settle the lawsuit:
Plaintiff Krekelberg will testify about the emotional distress, anxiety, frustration, anger, and fear she has experienced as a result of Defendants’ accesses of her information. She will testify that not only has she experienced distress and anxiety because Defendants and officers violated Plaintiff Krekelberg’s privacy, but the willfulness of the rampant conduct and the intentional abuse of her fellow officers’ power has caused her significant emotional torment. Regardless of whether she wears a badge, the unwanted attention from many men with whom she works who have the ability to cause her physical harm is a scary and distressing position for any woman.Plaintiff’s Trial Brief at p. 11.
Ms. Krekelberg will be seeking her “actual damages” and, apparently, will also be seeking punitive damages. It is easy to imagine that Officer Krekelberg and her lawyers, on the one side, and the City of Minneapolis and its lawyers, on the other, might have dramatically different predictions as to how much a jury would award Ms. Krekelberg in damages, if anything.
We will definitely stay tuned although the smart money is still probably placing bets on settlement…