United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit
Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Inc., et al., Appellants
United States Department of Transportation, et al., Appellees
November 8, 2017
from the United States District Court for the District of
Columbia (No. 1:12-cv-01158)
E. Mayers argued the cause for appellants. With her on the
briefs were Paul D. Cullen, Sr., and Paul D. Cullen, Jr.
Caroline D. Lopez, Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice,
argued the cause for appellees. With her on the brief were
Matthew M. Collette, Attorney, Paul M. Geier, Assistant
General Counsel, U.S. Department of Transportation, Joy K.
Park, Senior Trial Attorney, and Sue Lawless, Assistant Chief
Counsel for Enforcement and Litigation, Federal Motor Carrier
Before: Tatel, Griffith, and Srinivasan, Circuit Judges.
Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S.Ct. 1540 (2016), the
Supreme Court held that "Article III standing requires a
concrete injury even in the context of a statutory violation,
" id. at 1549. In this case, several commercial
truck drivers and their industry association claim they were
injured by the Department of Transportation's violation
of its statutory obligation to ensure the accuracy of a
database containing driver-safety information. As explained
in this opinion, we agree with the district court that, under
Spokeo, the asserted injury is, by itself,
insufficiently concrete to confer Article III standing. We
reverse, however, with respect to two drivers whose
information was released to prospective employers because
dissemination of inaccurate driver-safety data inflicts an
injury sufficiently concrete to confer standing to seek
fulfill its mandate of ensuring "the highest degree of
safety in motor carrier transportation, " the Federal
Motor Carrier Safety Administration, part of the Department
of Transportation, maintains the Motor Carrier Management
Information System, a database of commercial truck
drivers' safety records. 49 U.S.C. § 113(b). The
database includes "accident reports and other safety
violations." Weaver v. Federal Motor Carrier Safety
Administration, 744 F.3d 142, 143 (D.C. Cir. 2014).
Maintaining the database requires collaboration between state
and federal authorities. States serve as the primary
reporters of information: they are obligated by statute to
"collect and report . . . accurate, complete, and
timely motor carrier safety data." 49 U.S.C. §
31102(c)(2)(P)(i). For its part, the Department must
"ensure, to the maximum extent practical, [that] all the
data is complete, timely, and accurate, " id.
§ 31106(a)(3)(F), and "prescribe technical and
operational standards to ensure . . . uniform, timely, and
accurate information collection and reporting by the States,
" id. § 31106(a)(4)(A).
and other firms looking to hire truck drivers can access
certain information in the database, namely,
"[c]ommercial motor vehicle accident reports, "
"[i]nspection reports that contain no driver-related
safety violations, " and "[s]erious driver-related
safety violation inspection reports." Id.
§ 31150(a). The Department makes this information
available through its Pre-Employment Screening Program, which
provides employers with reports containing crash data from
the previous five years and inspection data from the previous
three. See U.S. Department of Transportation,
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Privacy
Impact Assessment: Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP)
(Apr. 14, 2010). The Department must "ensure that any
information that is released . . . will be in accordance with
the Fair Credit Reporting Act [FCRA] . . . and all other
applicable Federal law." 49 U.S.C. § 31150(b)(1).
further guarantee the accuracy of the database, the
Department must "provide a procedure for [drivers] to
correct inaccurate information." Id. §
31150(b)(4). In order to accomplish this, the Department
"established 'DataQs, ' a web-based dispute
resolution procedure that allows '[drivers] to
challenge[']" database information. Weaver,
744 F.3d at 143 (quoting Privacy Act of 1974; Department of
Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
(FMCSA) 007 Pre-Employment Screening Program, 77 Fed. Reg.
42, 548, 42, 551 (July 19, 2012)). When a driver files a
challenge, the Department forwards it to the relevant state
and state officials "decide how to respond."
are five commercial truck drivers and their industry
association, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers
Association, Inc. Between 2010 and 2013, state
law-enforcement authorities cited each driver for violating
safety regulations. See Owner-Operator Independent
Drivers Association v. Department of Transportation, 211
F.Supp.3d 252, 256 (D.D.C. 2016). The drivers successfully
challenged the citations in state court: one driver was found
not guilty after trial, and the others had their citations
dismissed. Id. at 256-57. All but one of the drivers
then asked through DataQs to have the violation reports
relating to the citations removed from the Department's
database. Their requests were rejected because, according to
the relevant state authorities, the database at the time
displayed only initial citations, not adjudicated outcomes.
Id. at 257. The safety records of two drivers-Klint
Mowrer and Fred Weaver, Jr.-including the challenged
violation reports, were shared through the Pre-Employment
Screening Program; the other drivers' records were never
disseminated. Id. at 260-61.
individual drivers and the industry association then sued,
challenging the Department's failure to ensure the
accuracy of the database and seeking injunctive and
declaratory relief under the Administrative Procedure Act, as
well as damages under the FCRA. The Department moved for
summary judgment, arguing (among other things) that the
drivers lacked Article III standing because they failed to
show concrete injury in fact. Id. at 258. The
district court agreed and dismissed the case. Id. at
261. The drivers appeal, and now we consider the issue
afresh. See Scenic America, Inc. v. ...