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Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Inc. v. United States Department of Transportation

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 30, 2016



          Hon. Beryl A. Howell, United States District Judge

         The plaintiffs, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Inc. ("OOIDA"), which is an organization that represents professional truck drivers and small business trucking companies, and five of its individual members, who are commercial truck drivers, brought this lawsuit against the defendants, the United States Department of Transportation ("DOT"), Anthony Foxx, [1] in his official capacity as Secretary of the DOT ("Secretary"), the FMCSA, and Anne S. Ferro, in her official capacity as Administrator of the FMCSA (collectively, "DOT" or "defendants"), in an effort to protect against the dissemination to potential employers of information in a federal database about state citations issued against them that were dismissed or resolved in their favor. Pending before the Court are three motions: the plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to Conduct Discovery, ECF No. 53, and cross-motions for summary judgment filed by the parties, Defs.' Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 60; Pls.' Cross-Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 64. For the reasons set forth below, the plaintiffs fail to allege or demonstrate any harm as a result of the defendants' actions, and as such, they have not shown an injury in fact sufficient to support standing. The Court therefore lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over this case, which it must dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The legal framework governing consideration of the pending motions is addressed first before turning to the factual allegations underlying the plaintiffs' complaint and the procedural history of this matter.

         A. Statutory and Regulatory Framework

         The Federal Motor Safety Administration ("FMCSA") was created by the Congress as "an administration of the Department of Transportation" and tasked with giving "the highest priority" to carrying out congressional intent in "the furtherance of the highest degree of safety in motor carrier transportation." 49 U.S.C. § 113(a)-(b). As part of this statutory mandate, the FMCSA maintains the Motor Carrier Management Information System ("MCMIS"), a database containing information on commercial truck drivers' safety records, which includes "accident reports and other safety violations." See Weaver v. FMCSA, 744 F.3d 142, 143 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (discussing creation of MCMIS). The states serve as the primary collectors and reporters to FMCSA of the data contained in the MCMIS, and are required to ensure that this data is "accurate, complete, and timely motor carrier safety data." 49 U.S.C. § 31102(b)(2)(Q)(i). DOT is ultimately responsible for "ensur[ing], to the maximum extent practical, all the data is complete, timely and accurate, " id. § 31106(a)(3)(F), and "prescribing] technical and operational standards to ensure uniform, timely, and accurate information collection and reporting by the States, " id. § 31106(a)(4)(A).

         The FMCSA is statutorily required to make certain information contained in the MCMIS electronically available to potential employers of commercial drivers for preemployment screening, namely: "(1) Commercial motor vehicle accident reports[;] (2) Inspection reports that contain no driver-related safety violations[; and] (3) Serious driver-related safety violation inspection reports." Id. § 31150(a). This access is to be provided to assist "in assessing an individual operator's crash and serious safety violation inspection history as a preemployment condition" and "may only be used during the preemployment assessment of an operator-applicant." Id. § 31150(c). The law requires that the MCMIS be operated in a manner ensuring dissemination "in accordance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act [("FCRA")] (15 U.S.C. 1681 et seq.) and all other applicable Federal law." Id. § 31150(b)(1). In addition, FMCSA must "provide a procedure for the operator-applicant to correct inaccurate information in the System in a timely manner." Id. § 31150(b)(4). FMCSA has implemented the preemployment screening access through a program known as the Pre-Employment Screening Program ("PSP"). Admin. Record ("AR") 25.

         "To meet the statutory mandate of providing a correction mechanism" for violation reports stored in the MCMIS, "FMCSA established 'DataQs, ' a web-based dispute resolution procedure that allows an individual to challenge data maintained by FMCSA." Weaver, 744 F.3d at 143 (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Silverado Stages, Inc. v. FMCSA, 809 F.3d 1268, 1271 (D.C. Cir. 2016) (describing DataQs). When a challenge is made to a reported safety violation by a driver, the FMCSA forwards it to the issuing state and "state officials also decide how to respond when a driver challenges a citation's inclusion in the database." Weaver, 744 F.3d at 143. FMCSA is not authorized to direct a State to change or alter MCMIS data for violations or inspections originating within a particular State. Id. at 143-44. "Once a State office makes a determination on the validity of a challenge, " the FMCSA is bound by the state reporting as the "final resolution of the challenge." Id. at 144.

         In 2014, after this case was initially filed, the FMCSA adopted a significant change to the DataQs system. Under the new system, the MCMIS allows inclusion of adjudicated citation results associated with violations documented during an inspection. Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS) Changes to Improve Uniformity in the Treatment of Inspection Violation Data, 79 Fed. Reg. 32, 491 (Jun. 5, 2014) ("2014 Interpretative Rule and Statement of Policy"). Prior to this rule, MCMIS included only inspection and violation data from the initial inspection report, and did not have a field in which to enter the result of an adjudicated citation. Id[2]

         B. Factual History

         Between March 2010 and February 2013, five professional truck drivers, Brian E. Kelley, Robert Lohmeier, Klint L. Mowrer, J. Mark Moody, and Fred Weaver, Jr. (collectively, the "individual plaintiffs"), each received one or more citations from state law enforcement authorities for having allegedly violating safety regulations while driving. See AR at 23-24 (Mowrer), 30 (Lohmeier), 120 (Kelley), 125 (Weaver), 180-181 (Moody). The individual plaintiffs successfully challenged these citations in state court: the cases against Kelley, Lohmeier, Moody and Weaver were ultimately dismissed, Am. Compl. ¶ 120, ECF No. 35 (Moody);[3] AR at 119 (Kelley), 144 (Lohmeier), 256 (Weaver), and Mowrer was found not guilty after a trial, AR at 132. Subsequently, all the plaintiffs but Moody requested through DataQs the removal of the violation reports related to these citations in the MCMIS. See AR at 116-17 (Kelley), 122-23 (Lohmeier), 133 (Mowrer), 249-50 (Weaver). In each case, the intervening state authority rejected the request because the MCMIS system at the time did not display adjudicatory outcomes, only that an initial citation was made.

         In a letter dated July 8, 2011, OOIDA wrote to the FMCSA's Administrator on behalf of Kelley, Lohmeier and Mowrer, asking that the violation reports corresponding to the successfully challenged citations "be removed from all FMCSA databases." Id. at 126-29. Consistent with the statutory and regulatory requirement making the states the final arbiters of MCMIS information, the FMCSA's Administrator forwarded the requests to the appropriate state authorities. Id. at 174-77. The challenges were again rejected by the respective states for each plaintiff, and the FMSCA's Administrator reported these rejections to OOIDA, noting that the FMCSA "concur[red] with the State responses to these DataQs." Id. at 178-79.

         C. Procedural History

         In 2011, the plaintiffs, with the exception of Weaver, initiated the instant lawsuit asserting five related claims, four under the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. §§ 701 et seq., and one under the FCRA, all of which are predicated on the maintenance and dissemination of allegedly incomplete data in the MCMIS database. Soon after the case was filed, DOT moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 8, but the case was stayed, over plaintiffs objections[4], when a nearly identical case was filed by plaintiff Weaver directly in the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The Circuit ultimately ...

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