Matthew F. Kennelly
Matthew F. Kennelly

It was bad enough being in a car accident.

Adding to their distress, Antonio and Karen Pavone allege, was getting letters from two law firms soliciting their business.

The firms — The Law Offices of Anthony Mancini Ltd. in Chicago and Meyerkord & Meyerkord Ltd. in St. Louis — learned about the January accident from an Illinois Traffic Crash Report filed by a Schaumburg police officer.

The Pavones allege the firms invaded their privacy and caused them emotional distress by using personal information from the report to pitch their services to the couple and their son.

The Pavones filed separate class-action lawsuits in federal court in Chicago accusing the firms of violating the federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act.

With certain exceptions, the DPPA bars the disclosure of personal information obtained from motor vehicle records without the driver’s or car owner’s consent.

Both firms asked that the respective suits be dismissed.

The Meyerkord firm’s motion is pending before U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve in Antonio Pavone, et al. v. Meyerkord & Meyerkord LLC, No. 15 C 1539.

In a written opinion Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly declined to throw out the suit against the Mancini firm.

He rejected alternate arguments that the DPPA does not shield the information included in accident reports or that the Mancini firm’s use of the information in the Pavone accident report fell under an exception in the statute.

Attorneys representing the Pavones in both suits include Jordan M. Sartell and Roger Zamparo Jr. of the Zamparo Law Group P.C. in Hoffman Estates.

The ruling, Sartell said, “validates our concerns” about such matters as the threat to privacy and overreach by some lawyers.

Zamparo said the Pavones’ legal team is conducting discovery into lawyers’ use of accident reports to drum up business.

The team, he said, believes “that there are possibly other attorneys throughout the state who are doing similar type solicitations.”

The Pavones also are represented by James A. Francis and John Soumilas, both of Francis & Mailman P.C. in Philadelphia.

Neither Anthony Mancini nor his attorney, George E. Becker, could be reached for comment.

The lead attorney in the other suit for the Meyerkord firm is Ben Barnow of Barnow and Associates P.C. He also could not be reached.

Mancini’s firm contended that the DPPA’s definition of “personal information” did not apply to crash reports and thus could be used for commercial purposes. In his opinion in the Mancini case, Kennelly rejected that argument.

The judge conceded the statute itself says information about vehicular accidents, driving violations and a driver’s status does not constitute personal information.

But that exclusion does not cover the identifying information — for example, the driver’s address, license number and plate number — included in the accident report, Kennelly wrote.

He also rejected the argument that crash reports are not motor vehicle records and, therefore, are not covered by the DPPA.

The personal information included in accident reports is obtained from motor vehicle records, Kennelly wrote.

And citing Senne v. Village of Palatine, 695 F.3d 597 (7th Cir. 2012) (en banc), he wrote that it makes no difference if the personal information is obtained directly from the Illinois secretary of state’s office or indirectly through an accident report written by police.

Kennelly also was not persuaded by the argument that the Mancini firm’s use of the accident report fell under an exception in the DPPA.

That exception allows personal information to be used if it is related “to the operation of a motor vehicle or public safety.”

But the firm used the report to solicit business, not for any other reason, Kennelly wrote.

The case is Antonio Pavone, et al. v. The Law Offices of Anthony Mancini Ltd., No. 15 C 1538.