United States District Court, District of Columbia
OWNER-OPERATOR INDEPENDENT DRIVERS ASSOCIATION, INC., et al. Plaintiffs,
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
A. HOWELL CHIEF JUDGE.
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”), Elaine Chao, in her
official capacity as Secretary of the DOT
(“Secretary”), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety
Administration (“FMCSA”), and Raymond P.
Martinez,  in his 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 driving citations, which had
been issued, and resolved favorably, to commercial truck
drivers. This Court's prior dismissal of the
plaintiffs' claims for lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction, OOIDA v. DOT, 211 F.Supp.3d 252
(D.D.C. 2016), was affirmed in part and reversed in part by
the D.C. Circuit, which held that two of the five
driver-plaintiffs-Klint Mowrer and Fred Weaver-had
“standing to seek damages, ” OOIDA v.
DOT, 879 F.3d 339, 340 (D.C. Cir. 2018). The two
remaining plaintiffs, Mowrer and Weaver, plus OOIDA, have
moved, under Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure and pursuant to this Court's March 26, 2018,
Minute Order, for leave to file an amended complaint in light
of the D.C. Circuit's ruling. Pls.' Mot. Amend Compl.
(“Pls.' Mot”), ECF No. 84; see
Pls.' Prop. Second Amend. Compl. (“Prop.
SAC”), ECF No. 84-1.
plaintiffs seek leave to amend their complaint
“primarily to make it simpler by eliminating the
particular parties dismissed” and whose dismissal was
affirmed by the D.C. Circuit. Pls.' Reply Supp. Pls.'
Mot. (“Pls.' Reply”) at 1, ECF No. 87. The
defendants oppose the proposed amended complaint as
“violat[ing] the mandate rule and the principle of
collateral estoppel, ” Defs.' Opp'n Pls.'
Mot. (“Defs.' Opp'n”) at 2, ECF No. 86,
since the proposed pleading continues to include a party and
claims, for whom and which the D.C. Circuit affirmed
dismissal. Specifically, the proposed amended complaint names
three plaintiffs-OOIDA, Mowrer, and Weaver-and adds a claim
under the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, see
Prop. SAC ¶¶ 145-65 (Count V), to the
plaintiffs' original claims for injunctive and
declaratory relief under the Administrative Procedure Act
(“APA”), 5 U.S.C. §§ 701 et
seq., Pls.' First Amend. Compl. (“FAC”)
¶¶ 144-79 (Counts I-IV), ECF No. 35; Prop. SAC
¶¶ 107-44 (Counts I-IV), and for damages under the
Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), 15 U.S.C.
§§ 1681 et seq., FAC ¶¶ 180-93
(Count V); Prop. SAC ¶¶ 166-80 (Count VI), even
though only damages claims are permitted to proceed.
reasons below, the plaintiffs' motion for leave to amend
the complaint is denied without prejudice to seek leave to
file an amended pleading in accordance with this Memorandum
Opinion and Order.
to amend a complaint under Rule 15(a) ‘shall be freely
given when justice so requires, '” Firestone v.
Firestone, 76 F.3d 1205, 1208 (D.C. Cir. 1996), but such
leave may be denied for various reasons, including
“futility of amendment, ” Foman v.
Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). Such futility may arise
where an appeals court has affirmed dismissal of a party or
claim, because under the mandate rule, this Court is bound by
the holding of the D.C. Circuit. See Indep. Petroleum
Ass'n of Am. v. Babbitt, 235 F.3d 588, 596-97 (D.C.
Cir. 2001) (“Under the mandate rule, ‘an inferior
court has no power or authority to deviate from the mandate
issued by an appellate court.'”) (quoting
Briggs v. Pa. R.R. Co., 334 U.S. 304, 306 (1948)).
mandate rule is a ‘more powerful version' of the
law-of-the-case doctrine, which prevents courts from
reconsidering issues that have already been decided in the
same case.” Id. at 597 (citations omitted);
see also United States v. Kpodi, 888 F.3d 486, 491
(D.C. Cir. 2018). “Unlike the doctrine of res
judicata, however, the ‘law of the case'
doctrine does not seek to sweep under its coverage all
possible issues arising out of the facts of the case.”
U.S. on Behalf of Dep't of Labor v. Ins. Co. of N.
Am., 131 F.3d 1037, 1041 (D.C. Cir. 1997).
“Rather, the scope of the ‘law of the case'
doctrine is limited to issues that were decided either
explicitly or by necessary implication-‘[t]he mere fact
that [an issue] could have been decided is not sufficient to
foreclose the issue on remand.'” Id.
(quoting Maggard v. O'Connell, 703 F.2d 1284,
1289 (D.C. Cir. 1983)). “[I]t is entirely
appropriate-and, in most cases in this circuit, necessary-to
consult the opinion to interpret the mandate.”
Id. at 1041 n.7; see also United States ex rel.
Miller v. Bill Harbert Int'l Constr., Inc., 865
F.Supp.2d 1, 6 (D.D.C. 2011) (“When a district court is
considering proceedings on remand, a circuit court's
opinion ‘may be consulted to ascertain what was
intended by its mandate.'”) (quoting In re
Sanford Fork & Tool Co., 160 U.S. 247, 256 (1895)).
D.C. Circuit's opinion in this matter was
straightforward. Noting that all five named plaintiffs and
OOIDA sought “injunctive and declaratory relief under
the Administrative Procedure Act, as well as damages under
the FCRA, ” OOIDA, 879 F.3d at 341-42; see
also Id. at 346 (“In addition to damages, the
drivers and their industry association seek prospective
relief, including a declaration that the Department violated
its statutory obligations and an injunction requiring it to
purge the database of inaccurate information.”), the
Circuit remanded this case only “with respect to two
drivers [Mowrer and Weaver] whose information was released to
prospective employers because dissemination of inaccurate
driver-safety data inflicts an injury sufficiently concrete
to confer standing to seek damages, ” id. at
340; see also Id. at 345 (“[W]e agree that the
two drivers have suffered concrete harm, [and] we shall
remand their damages claims to the district court.”).
In other words, taking into account the range of relief
requested by the five drivers and OOIDA, the D.C. Circuit
held that two drivers-Mowrer and Weaver-had standing to seek
damages. The Circuit then remanded the case to this Court so
that Mowrer and Weaver may pursue their claims for damages.
Mandate, ECF No. 82.
OOIDA, which purports to be “acting herein in a
representative capacity seeking only declaratory and
injunctive relief on behalf of its members, ” Prop. SAC
¶ 17, is no longer a party to this case. The plaintiffs
contend that OOIIDA maintains representational standing and
that this lawsuit is “germane to its purpose” of
“protect[ing] its members' interests” against
the “dissemination of inaccurate personal data.”
Pls.' Reply at 4-5. Even so, the D.C. Circuit remanded
only Mowrer and Weaver's damages claims, and thus the
mandate rule bars this Court from exercising subject-matter
jurisdiction over OOIDA's claims. Further, the D.C.
Circuit's decision definitively resolved the question of
whether the remaining plaintiffs in this matter may pursue
the injunctive and declaratory relief they seek under the
APA. See Prop. SAC ¶¶ 107-44; id.
¶¶ A-P (Prayer for Relief). They may not. See
generally OOIDA, 879 F.3d 339.
defendants push their argument too far, however, by
suggesting that the plaintiffs are similarly barred by the
mandate rule from pursuing damages under the Privacy Act.
See Defs.' Opp'n at 6. The D.C. Circuit held
that Mowrer and Weaver had “suffered concrete
harm” because their inaccurate “safety records
were released to prospective employers” and
“remand[ed] their damages claims to” this Court.
OOIDA, 879 F.3d at 345. The Circuit did not limit
Mowrer and Weaver's standing to seek damages to FCRA, or
otherwise preclude them from seeking damages under the
Privacy Act. See Pls.' Reply at 3
(“Nothing about the Court of Appeals'[s] decision
restricted its remand to the Plaintiffs' statutory FCRA
claims.”). Further, as the defendants acknowledge, the
Privacy Act damages claim “essentially recast[s] the
factual allegations and legal contentions in the prior
pleading regarding that statute, ” Defs.' Opp'n
at 4, and they are therefore not “undu[ly]
prejudice[d], ” Foman, 371 U.S. at 182, by the
plaintiffs' pursuit of damages under the Privacy Act. The
plaintiffs' claim for damages under the Privacy Act
relies on the same underlying facts, that is, the
“dissemination of inaccurate personal information,
” Pls.' Reply at 3, as their claim for damages
under FCRA, so Rule 15 commands that they be permitted to
amend their complaint to add the Privacy Act claim for
damages, see Foman, 371 U.S. at 182 (“If the
underlying facts or circumstances relied upon by a plaintiff
may be a proper subject of relief, he ought to be afforded an
opportunity to test his claim on the merits.”).
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
foregoing reasons, upon consideration of the plaintiffs
OOIDA, Klint Mowrer, and Fred Weaver's Motion for Leave
to File an Amended Complaint, ECF No. 84, the related legal
memoranda in support of and opposition to this motion, and
the entire record herein, it is hereby
that the plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File an Amended
Complaint is DENIED ...