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Foudy v. Indian River County Sheriff's Office

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

January 9, 2017

SHAUN FOUDY, TONI FOUDY, Plaintiffs - Appellants,
v.
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, SHERIFF DERYL LOAR, in his official capacity as the Sheriff of the Indian River County Sheriff's Office and in his individual capacity, DAVID BAILEY, individually, ERIC CARLSON, individually, JOHN FINNEGAN, individually, et al., Defendants-Appellees, GREG LONG, individually, et al., SHAUN FOUDY, TONI FOUDY, Plaintiffs - Appellants,
v.
CITY OF PORT ST. LUCIE, RICHARD S. GIACCONE, STEVE CAMARA, MICHAEL RYAN CONNOR, MEYER GHOBRIAL, et al., Defendants-Appellees. SHAUN FOUDY, Plaintiff, TONI FOUDY, Plaintiff - Appellant,
v.
CITY OF FORT PIERCE, POLICEMAN JASON BRAUN, JANE AND JOHN DOES (1-10), Defendants-Appellees.

         Appeals from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida Nos. 2:14-cv-14324-RLR, 2:14-cv-14316-RLR, 2:14-cv-14318-RLR

          Before MARCUS and BLACK, Circuit Judges, and COHEN, [*] District Judge.

          BLACK, Circuit Judge:

         In this consolidated appeal, Toni and Shaun Foudy challenge the district court's dismissals on statute of limitations grounds of their lawsuits against the Indian River County Sheriff's Office, the City of Port St. Lucie, the City of Fort Pierce, and numerous related individuals brought under the Driver's Privacy Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2721-2725 (the DPPA), and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Foudys assert the district court erred when it (1) applied an occurrence rule of accrual to their § 1983 claims, (2) refused to apply equitable tolling to their DPPA claims, and (3) refused to relate their amended complaints back to their initial complaint filed on December 31, 2012. After review and with the benefit of oral argument, we affirm.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) maintains a Driver and Vehicle Information Database (DAVID). DAVID contains Florida drivers' personal information including photographs, social security numbers, prior and current mailing addresses, and other similar data. See Foudy v. Miami-Dade Cty., 823 F.3d 590, 591 (11th Cir. 2016). Toni and Shaun Foudy allegedly supplied their personal information to DHSMV, which was thereafter entered into DAVID. The Foudys claim the Appellees, consisting of law enforcement agencies, their employees, and other officials throughout the state of Florida, repeatedly accessed the Foudys' private information through the DAVID database without their knowledge or consent, motivated at once by distaste for women in law enforcement (Toni Foudy is a police officer), attraction to Toni Foudy's physical beauty, and "morbid curiosity." The Foudys learned of the alleged accesses, which took place between July 2005 and June 2011, when they sought an audit of all accesses of their DAVID information in April 2011.

          On December 31, 2012, the Foudys filed suit in the Southern District of Florida against the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office, the Indian River County Sheriff's Office, and various unnamed entities, individuals, DHSMV employees, and Florida law enforcement personnel. The Cities of Port St. Lucie and Fort Pierce and their respective employees were added in an amended complaint on March 7, 2014. The Foudys charged all defendants with violating the DPPA. See 18 U.S.C. § 2724 ("A person who knowingly obtains, discloses or uses personal information, from a motor vehicle record, for a purpose not permitted under this chapter shall be liable to the individual to whom the information pertains, who may bring a civil action in a United States district court."). The Foudys brought their claims directly under the DPPA as well as under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in conjunction with the DPPA. On August 1, 2014, Judge Martinez, concerned the complaint constituted a mere "shotgun pleading, " entered an order severing the Foudys' claims against the separate defendants. It was not readily apparent, the court observed, how the various claims constituted the same transaction. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(2)(A). The order dismissed all defendants except the first named defendant and granted the Foudys two weeks to refile separate actions against the dismissed parties. It specifically provided the newly-severed actions, when refiled, would be considered continuations of the prior action for statute of limitations purposes. The Foudys refiled thirteen separate actions within the allotted time.

          Three of those suits form the basis of this consolidated appeal. Each complaint was filed August 15, 2014: one against the City of Port St. Lucie and certain related individuals (the Port St. Lucie Case); one against the Indian River County Sheriff's Office and related individuals (the Indian River Case); and one against the City of Fort Pierce and related individuals (the Fort Pierce Case). On January 16, 2015, Judge Rosenberg, presiding over the refiled cases, entered three identical paperless orders dismissing the Foudys' complaints in each case. The orders asserted the Foudys did not clearly demonstrate their claims against the various defendants arose out the same transaction, and adopted the reasoning of Judge Martinez's August 2014 dismissal. They stated Judge Martinez's order had "required Plaintiffs to show, if Plaintiffs proceeded against multiple defendants, how the conduct of the Defendants constituted the same transaction for the purposes of joinder." The Foudys not having done so, the court dismissed each case without prejudice, but did not provide for tolling of the statute of limitations as Judge Martinez's order had done. The Foudys were given fifteen days to refile separate actions against appropriate defendants and expressly state in any complaint naming multiple defendants how such parties' conduct constituted the same transaction for the purposes of joinder. By the morning of February 2, 2015, the Foudys had not refiled. The district court entered paperless orders closing each case, stating the Foudys could reopen the cases only by filing a motion explaining their failure to comply with court orders and an amended complaint meeting the requirements of the January 16 order. Later that same day, the Foudys filed motions to reopen in each case, attaching their amended complaints. The Foudys provided no explanation as to how the claims against the defendants arose out of the same transaction. The next day, the district court denied each of the motions, noting the Foudys had failed to explain how joinder was permissible, as the court had ordered them to do. It gave the Foudys the opportunity to refile a motion responsive to the court's joinder concerns. On February 18, 2015, the Foudys did so, and the court reopened the Indian River Case on June 3, 2015, the Port St. Lucie Case on June 11, 2015, and the Fort Pierce Case on June 19, 2015.

         In each suit, the defendants moved to dismiss, asserting the Foudys' claims were barred by the statute of limitations. The court issued two sets of nearly identical orders[1] on July 27 and 28, 2015 and September 9, 2015, which together held the occurrence rule applied to the Foudys' DPPA and § 1983 claims; thus, the statute of limitations began to run on the date the alleged violations occurred and not when they were discovered. The district court determined the effective dates of the refiled complaints were March 5, 2015 with respect to the St. Lucie Case, June 23, 2015 with respect to the Indian River Case, and March 12, 2015 with respect to the Fort Pierce Case.[2] In each instance, the Foudys had alleged no violations less than four years prior to such dates. Accordingly, all of the Foudys' claims were time-barred, and the district court entered judgment in favor of the defendants and closed the cases.

         On appeal, the Foudys initially argued the district court erred when it applied the occurrence rule to both the DPPA claims and the § 1983 claims. After the parties had submitted their briefs, however, a panel of this Court held the occurrence rule applies to DPPA claims in the separate case of Foudy v. Miami-Dade County. See Foudy, 823 F.3d at 593. In their supplemental brief, the Foudys concede that case has become the law of this Circuit. See Smith v. GTE Corp., 236 F.3d 1292, 1300 n.8 (11th Cir. 2001) ("[T]he holding of the first panel to address an issue is the law of this Circuit . . . ."). That issue is now foreclosed, and we need address only the remaining matters in this consolidated appeal.

         II. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

         We review a district court's interpretation and application of a statute of limitations de novo. Harrison v. Dig. Health Plan, 183 F.3d 1235, 1238 (11th Cir. 1999). "In reviewing an order granting a motion to dismiss, the appellate court must accept the factual allegations of the complaint as true and may affirm the dismissal of the complaint only if it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations." Mesocap Ind. Ltd. v. Torm Lines, 194 F.3d 1342, 1343 (11th Cir. 1999) (quotation omitted).

         We review a district court's decision to dismiss a case for failure to comply with an order of the court for an abuse of discretion. See Gratton v. Great Am. Commc'ns, 178 F.3d 1373, 1374 (11th Cir.1999). Although we review a district court's interpretation of its own orders for an abuse of discretion, Cave v. Singletary, 84 F.3d 1350, 1354-55 (11th Cir. 1996), we do not extend such deference to one district judge's ...


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