FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
UTAH (D.C. NOS. 2:15-CV-00143-TC & 2:15-CV-00278-TS)
Michelman, Public Citizen Litigation Group, Washington, D.C.
(Taylor B. Ayres, Ayres Law Firm, Draper, Utah; Scott C.
Borison, Legg Law Firm LLC, San Mateo, California; and Scott
L. Nelson, Public Citizen Litigation Group, Washington, D.C.,
with him on the briefs), for Appellants.
Michael Hansen, Nelson Jones, PLLC, Sandy, Utah (David C.
Richards and Sarah Elizabeth Spencer, Christensen &
Jensen, P.C., Salt Lake City, Utah, with him on the brief),
Freed Wessler, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, New
York, New York; Leah Farrell and John Mejia, ACLU of Utah
Foundation, Inc., Salt Lake City Utah; Mark Silverstein and
Sara R. Neel, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of
Colorado, Denver, Colorado; Stephen Douglas Bonney, ACLU
Foundation of Kansas, Overland Park, Kansas; Alexandra
Freedman Smith, ACLU of New Mexico Foundation, Albuquerque,
New Mexico; Brady R. Henderson, ACLU of Oklahoma Foundation,
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Courtney A. Bowie, American
Civil Liberties Union of Wyoming, Cheyenne, Wyoming, on the
brief for Amici Curiae in support of Appellants.
BRISCOE, MURPHY, and PHILLIPS, Circuit Judges.
MURPHY, Circuit Judge.
Detective James Woods accessed a state database containing
the prescription drug records of Plaintiffs Ryan Pyle and
Marlon Jones, Pyle and Jones brought separate lawsuits
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, each challenging
Defendants' conduct as violative of the Fourth Amendment
and the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA"). In both
suits, the district court dismissed the claims against
Defendant Woods, concluding Woods was entitled to qualified
immunity because the law governing warrantless access to
prescription drug information by law enforcement was not
clearly established. The district court also dismissed the
FCRA claims because Defendants' actions fit within an
exemption set out in the Act.
Jones's suit, the district court dismissed the
constitutional claims against the city of Cottonwood Heights
with prejudice because Jones's complaint failed to state
a claim for municipal liability plausible on its face. In
Pyle's suit, the district court dismissed the
constitutional claims against Cottonwood Heights without
prejudice, concluding Pyle failed to notify the Utah Attorney
General of those claims as required by Rule 5.1 of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
and Jones each appealed. Exercising jurisdiction pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1291, we affirm the
district court's judgments.
II. Factual Background
Utah Controlled Substance Database (the "Database")
was created in 1995 pursuant to the Utah Controlled Substance
Database Act (the "Database Act"). Utah Code Ann.
§§ 58-37f-101, -201. The Database is administered
by the Utah Department of Occupational and Professional
Licensing ("DOPL") and contains data
"regarding every prescription for a controlled substance
dispensed in the state [of Utah] to any individual other than
an inpatient in a licensed health care facility."
Id. § 201(5). At the time of the events giving
rise to this appeal, the Database Act permitted "local
law enforcement authorities" to access the Database
without a warrant. Id. § 58-37f-301(2)(i)
James Woods is a detective in the Cottonwood Heights Police
Department. In April 2013, Woods was informed by Utah's
Unified Fire Authority ("UFA") that medications,
including opioids and sedatives, were missing from several
UFA ambulances. Detective Woods received a list of 480 UFA
employees with access to the ambulances from Robbie Russo,
the Cottonwood Heights Chief of Police. Russo had obtained
the list from Defendant Kelvyn Cullimore, the Mayor of
Cottonwood Heights. Detective Woods accessed the Database and
searched the prescription drug records of 480 UFA employees
in an effort to "develop suspect leads of those who have
the appearance of Opioid dependencies." Consistent with
Utah law at the time, Woods did not obtain a search warrant
before accessing the Database. Based on the information Woods
obtained from the Database search, he developed suspicions
about Plaintiffs Pyle and Jones. Neither Plaintiff, however,
was ever prosecuted for the thefts from the ambulances.
and Jones filed separate, but substantially similar, suits
against Detective Woods, Mayor Cullimore, and the city of
Cottonwood Heights, alleging, inter alia, violations
of their Fourth Amendment rights because Woods did not obtain
a search warrant before accessing the Database. Plaintiffs
also alleged violations of the FCRA. Defendants filed motions
to dismiss both matters,  arguing, inter alia, (1)
Plaintiffs' constitutional rights were not violated, (2)
the individual defendants were entitled to qualified
immunity, and (3) the FCRA does not prohibit a search of the
Database under the facts at issue.
motion to dismiss was granted in the Pyle matter. As to
Pyle's Fourth Amendment claims against Woods and
Cullimore, the district court concluded those defendants were
entitled to qualified immunity because the law on the
constitutionality of a warrantless search of the Database was
not clearly established. The court dismissed Pyle's
municipal liability claim against the city of Cottonwood
Heights without prejudice, concluding the claim implicated
the constitutionality of the Database Act and Pyle failed to
notify the Utah Attorney General of the claim, as required by
Rule 5.1(a)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Finally, the district court dismissed the FCRA claim because
Defendants' conduct fell within an exception to the
definition of "consumer report."
motion to dismiss Jones's lawsuit was also granted. As in
the Pyle matter, the district court concluded Detective Woods
and Mayor Cullimore were entitled to qualified immunity
because the constitutional right at issue was not clearly
established. The court dismissed the municipal liability
claim against the city of Cottonwood Heights on the ground
that Jones did not identify any municipal policy or show a
link between a policy or custom and any injury caused by the