Rock County data breach case settlement could be largest payout so far

LUVERNE – Lately there have been a flurry of data breach cases in Minnesota, but one that originated in Rock County has the Minnesota Counties Insurance Trust offering the largest payoff so far over the misuse of driver’s license information.

A $2 million settlement was offered Thursday in federal court, but has yet to be approved by a federal judge. The case stems from the alleged actions of a child support officer in Rock County, who was accused of making more than 4,000 queries of the Driver and Vehicle Services database in 2010 and 2011. Janet Patten was fired, and several law firms sued on behalf of about 3,000 people who received data breach letters.

Rock County Administrator Kyle Oldre said last year that Patten looked up friends and neighbors, co-workers and workers in other counties – people she knew – and spent considerable time doing it. A criminal investigation took place, but no charges were filed.

The DVS database, which is protected by federal law against misuse, contains photographs, addresses and driving records on Minnesotans with a license. A state audit last year found that it was being routinely abused by law enforcement and other public employees.

Plaintiffs in the case are attempting to certify it as a class action, which would cover anyone who Patten illegitimately looked up during the specified time period. The targets of illegitimate lookups will receive a share of the money “based on the number of times they were illegitimately searched.” The named plaintiffs who initially brought the suit would receive an “incentive payment” of $500 each.

Rock County, one of Minnesota’s smallest counties, will pay a deductible as a result of the settlement, according to Robyn Sykes, executive director of the counties insurance trust.

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