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Pavone v. Law offices of Anthony Mancini, Ltd.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

July 28, 2015

PAVONE, PAVONE, AND M.P., Plaintiffs,

For Antonio Pavone, Karen Pavone, M. P., a minor child, by and through his Parents and Next Friends Antonio Pavone and Karen Pavone, Plaintiffs: James A. Francis, John Soumilas, PRO HAC VICE, Francis & Mailman, P.C., Philadelphia, PA; Jordan Mark Sartell, Roger Zamparo, Jr., Zamparo Law Group, P.C., Hoffman Estates, IL.

For The Law Offices of Anthony Mancini, Ltd., Defendant: George E. Becker, LEAD ATTORNEY, George E. Becker Esq., Chicago, IL.

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MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, United States District Judge.

Plaintiffs filed suit on behalf of a class of similarly-situated individuals against the Law Offices of Anthony Mancini, Ltd. (Mancini), alleging that the law firm obtained Illinois traffic crash reports and used the information in those reports to send targeted solicitations to persons involved in car accidents, in violation of the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA). Plaintiffs attached to their complaint documents that Mancini sent to plaintiff Antonio Pavone, including a solicitation letter and a copy of a crash report that listed his name, date of birth, address, license plate number, driver's license number, and his car's make and model. Mancini has moved to dismiss the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The Court denies the motion to dismiss for the reasons stated below.


When considering a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts plaintiffs' allegations as true and draws reasonable inferences in their favor. Parish v. City of Elkhart, 614 F.3d 677, 679 (7th Cir. 2010). In order to state a viable claim, plaintiffs must provide " enough facts to state a claim to relief that

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is plausible on its face." Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007).

The DPPA prohibits knowingly obtaining, disclosing, or using " personal information, from a motor vehicle record, for a purpose not permitted under this chapter." 18 U.S.C. § § 2722, 2724. Mancini argues that the DPPA does not apply in this case because the DPPA excludes accident reports from the definition of protected " personal information" and because crash reports are not " motor vehicle records." Mancini also argues that even if the Court finds the DPPA applicable, the law firm's use of the crash reports falls within one of the permitted-use exceptions. Id. § 2721(b)(14).

A. Personal information

Mancini argues that the complaint fails to state a claim because crash reports do not constitute " personal information" under the DPPA. Id. § § 2721, 2722. The DPPA defines " personal information" as " information that identifies an individual . . . but does not include information on vehicular accidents, driving violations, and driver's status." Id. § 2725(3). One court has concluded that accident reports do not constitute " personal information," because " the plain language of [the] exception in section 2725[ ] makes clear that Congress did not intend 'information on vehicular accidents' to be included within the Act's prohibition of disclosure of 'personal information.'" Mattivi v. Russell, No. CIV.A. 01-WM-533(BNB), 2002 WL 31949898, at *4 (D. Colo. Aug. 2, 2002). But the statute does not exclude accident reports from the definition of " personal information" ; it only excludes " information on vehicular accidents [and] driving violations." 18 U.S.C. § 2725(3) (emphasis added). Based on the plain language of the statute, the exclusion refers to information about the accident, not the personal information that is included in accident reports. The driver's address, license plate number, and license number do not involve information about the accident, and thus they do not constitute " information on vehicular accidents." See Whitaker v. Appriss, Inc., No. 3:13-CV-826-RLM-CAN, 2014 WL 4536559, at *2 (N.D. Ind. Sept. 11, 2014) (" The parties agree[d] that the DPPA considers certain information set forth in the accident reports, such as driver identification numbers, names, and addresses, to be personal information." ).

Seventh Circuit precedent supports the conclusion that the DPPA protects personal information listed in accident reports. The Seventh Circuit has interpreted " personal information" broadly to include information that is not listed in the statutory definition. See Dahlstrom v. Sun-Times Media, LLC, 777 F.3d 937, 943-44 (7th Cir. 2015). " Personal information" should be interpreted broadly in this instance as well, as protecting personal information in accident reports serves the two purposes of the DPPA--" to prevent stalkers and criminals from utilizing motor vehicle records to acquire information about their victims" and " to protect against the States' common practice of selling personal information to businesses engaged in ...

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