This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).




Thomas J. Bennett, et al.,



City of Brooklyn Park, et al.,


Filed September 15, 1998


Amundson, Judge

Hennepin County District Court

File No. 9616312

Josh Jacobson, 1400 AT&T Tower, 901 Marquette Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellants)

Julie Fleming-Wolfe, 1654 Grand Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105 (for respondents)

Considered and decided by Crippen, Presiding Judge, Amundson, Judge, and Schultz, Judge.*



Appellants in this data practices action challenge the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of respondents. We affirm.


Appellants Thomas J. Bennett, Donald L. Bowman, Jr., and Margaret Snesrud, are members of the Brooklyn Park Police Civil Service Commission (commission). Respondent Dennis L. Palm was acting city manager for respondent City of Brooklyn Park (city) from May through November 1995. Respondent Cornelius L. Boganey has been city manager since December 1, 1995.

In June 1996, appellants brought suit against respondents, alleging that respondents violated the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act[1] by failing to produce the following documents in response to appellants' requests:

(1) A February 17, 1995, memo from David Johnson, Director of Services for the City Police Department, alleging that the commission had violated the open meeting law by holding an unannounced meeting on February 11, 1995 (February 1995 memo);

(2) A June 26, 1995, memo from David Johnson, alleging that appellant Bennett had violated the data practices act by releasing private personnel data about Johnson (June 1995 memo);

(3) A September 20, 1995, memo from Police Chief Donald Davis, stating Davis's concerns about the commission's officer hiring process (September 1995 memo).

Appellants also claimed that respondents improperly released private data to the public (the February 1995 memo) and refused to correct allegedly inaccurate data in the commission file.

At the close of discovery, respondents moved for summary judgment. Appellants also moved for summary judgment on all issues except damages. Appellants then filed a motion to amend their second amended complaint to add a claim for exemplary damages. Finding that respondents were protected by official immunity and that appellants' claims were moot, conclusory, and unsupported by any facts. The district court granted respondents' motion for summary judgment. The court also denied appellants' motions to amend their complaint and for partial summary judgment. This appeal followed.


On appeal from summary judgment, the reviewing court must determine: "(1) whether there are any genuine issues of material fact; and (2) whether the lower court erred in its application of the law." Lubbers v. Anderson, 539 N.W.2d 398, 401 (Minn. 1995). The evidence is to be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-prevailing party. Fabio v. Bellomo, 504 N.W.2d 758, 761 (Minn. 1993). "A reviewing court is not bound by a district court's determination of a purely legal issue." Summit House Co. v. Gershman, 502 N.W.2d 422, 423-24 (Minn. App. 1993).

Civil remedies for violations of the data practices act are dictated by statute, which mandates:

Notwithstanding section 466.03, a political subdivision, responsible authority, statewide system, or state agency which violates any provision of this chapter is liable to a person * * * who suffers any damage as a result of the violation, and the person damaged * * * may bring an action against the political subdivision, responsible authority, statewide system or state agency to cover any damages sustained, plus costs and reasonable attorney fees.

Minn. Stat. § 13.08, subd. 1 (1996).

In their second amended complaint, appellants allege that respondents violated the data practices act by failing to disclose or release the February 1995 memo in response to their requests. As a result of this violation, appellants allege they were unable to "correct inaccurate data" found in the memo. Appellants further allege that respondents improperly released a copy of that memo to Kevin Kassel. According to appellants, Kassel then brought suit against them for violation of the open meeting law.

These allegations are conclusory. Appellants offer no proof that, but for Kassel's receipt of the allegedly inaccurate February 1995 memo, he would not have sued them. According to Kassel's complaint, there were two other open meeting law violations at issue in addition to the violation mentioned in the February 1995 memo. Also, an affidavit was submitted in the Kassel lawsuit that testified to telephone conversations between appellant Snesrud and the other commissioners during which commission business was discussed. Under Minn. Stat. § 13.08, subd. 1, appellants must show not only that respondents violated the act and that appellants sustained damages, but also that their damages were a direct result of the violations. Appellants have not shown that the Kassel lawsuit was a direct result of respondents' release of the allegedly inaccurate February 1995 memo.

Appellants also have not shown how or why they were harmed by respondents' alleged failure to disclose or release the June and September 1995 memos to them. Respondents sought summary judgment on the basis of, among other things, a "complete absence of a causal connection" between respondents' nondisclosure of documents and appellants' alleged damages. Appellants, responding that the "arguments relating to causation were not properly before the Court on a motion for summary judgment," argued only that "substantial evidence" had been given as to appellants' damages. No other details were provided. Although the issue of causation is generally for a jury to decide, to survive a motion for summary judgment the nonmoving party must come forth with sufficient facts to raise a genuine issue of material fact for trial. See Nicollet Restoration, Inc. v. City of St. Paul, 533 N.W.2d 845, 848 (Minn. 1995); Minn. R. Civ. P. 56.05. Promises that causation evidence will be produced at trial and general assertions of substantial evidence do not suffice to create a genuine issue of material fact. Id.

In responding to the summary judgment motion, appellants were obligated to present specific admissible facts showing that there was a genuine issue for trial as to each element of their claim against respondents. Because the record does not reflect any genuine issue for trial on the element of causation, respondents were entitled to summary judgment. See Lubbers, 539 N.W.2d at 401 (summary judgment mandatory for defendant when "record reflects a complete lack of proof on an essential element of the plaintiff's claim").

Appellants have failed to show a causal connection between respondents' alleged violations of the data practices act and appellants' alleged damages, therefore we need not address the parties' immunity, mootness, and exhaustion of remedies arguments.


*Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

[1] Minn. Stat. § 13.01-.99 (1996).