Arkansas class action alleges state sold personal information

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Jan. 25, 2010, 5:30am

TEXARKANA, Ark. -- If a recently filed class action is successful, each driver in Arkansas may receive $2,500 from companies that may have obtained their personal information illegally through the Arkansas Department of Licensing.

The class action alleges that several companies violated the Driver Privacy Protection Act by obtaining personal information contained in motor vehicle records maintained by the state.

On behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, seven plaintiffs filed a class action against Arkansas Automobile Dealers' Association, TRW Target Marketing and The Recall Center on Jan. 14 in the Texarkana Division of the Western District of Arkansas.

The named plaintiffs are Linda Haney, Margaret Smith, Beulah Skiver, Mary Jo Ring, Mary Jane Comstock, Yoland Curry and Geraldine Garrett.

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1993, which included the Driver Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), was passed after several incidents in which criminals had used publicly available motor vehicle records to identify and stalk their victims.

Prior to passage of the act, someone could walk into a State Motor Vehicle Department with a license plate number and obtain the owner's name and home address.

The DPPA made it illegal for any person or organization to obtain or disclose personal information from any motor vehicle record unless that person expressly authorized the disclosure.

According to the lawsuit, the state of Arkansas does not obtain express consent from any driver to release personal information but will only sell the personal information from a motor vehicle record to people or organizations that claim that they have a "lawful purpose for the information (other than direct or mass marketing)."

Once an entity certifies that it has a lawful purpose for some personal information and/or has obtained any necessary consent, the motor vehicle department provides that entity with a copy of the state's entire database of names, addresses and other personal information.

The class action states that the defendants have purchased the entire database of information and each have a signed contract with the state of Arkansas in which they claim to have a proper purpose for obtaining each piece of personal information.

The lawsuit claims that class members did not expressly consent to the release of their private information and that the defendants obtained their personal information unlawfully, violating a legally protected right.

Further, the lawsuit states that class members are now at increased risk associated with having their protected personal information in the possession of numerous individuals.

The proposed class will include every individual whose name, address, driver identification number, race, date of birth or sex are contained in motor vehicle records obtained by the defendants from the Arkansas Department of Licensing from June 1, 2000, through the date of judgment.

The class will exclude any individuals who have expressly authorized the state of Arkansas to release their information to third parties.

The lawsuit is seeking $2,500 for each instance the defendants obtained, disclosed or used personal information. The plaintiffs are asking the court to require the defendants to destroy all personal information illegally obtained from motor vehicle records and to award punitive damages for the "willful and reckless disregard of the DPPA."

Class counsel includes Texarkana attorney Bruce A. Flint of Flint and Soyars LLC, Dallas attorneys Thomas M. Corea and Jeremy R. Wilson of The Corea Firm PLLC, George A. Otstott and Ann Jamison of Otstott and Jamison PC and Joseph H. Mallery of the Law Offices of Joseph H. Mallery.

U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes will preside over the litigation.

Jury trial requested.

Case No 4:10cv04003

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