Appeals Court Rules Lawsuits Over Inaccurate Background Check Data Must Show Concrete Injury

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On January 12, 2018, a federal appeals court ruled that truck drivers cannot be awarded legal damages merely for inaccurate background check data in the federal Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) database without showing “concrete injury,” according to an article on the Transport Topics website.

Transport Topics reports the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in a lawsuit where five drivers sought damages for inaccuracies in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) database that gives background check reports to employers containing safety violations and crash data.

While the appeals court ruling sent two drivers to the lower court on remand to seek monetary damages because some inaccurate background check data was given to prospective employers, the court ruled the other three drivers did not suffer “injury sufficiently concrete to confer standing to seek damages.”

“For its part, the department [FMCSA] must ensure, to the maximum extent practical that all the data is complete, timely and accurate, and prescribe technical and operational standards to ensure uniform, timely and accurate information collection and reporting by the states,” the ruling stated.

The appeals court said the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of Spokeo v. Robins requires drivers to prove concrete injury and not just a procedural violation and that the drivers failed to identify where “the mere existence of inaccurate information, absent dissemination, amounts to concrete injury.”

While the appeals court did agree that “the mere existence of inaccurate information in a government database could cause concrete harm depending on how that information is to be used,” it concluded that “the drivers have failed to show standing for all of the relief they seek” in this particular case.

The lawsuit was filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) on behalf of drivers. “OOIDA is pleased that the D.C. Circuit has agreed with its position that FMCSA, and not the states, bears responsibility for the accuracy of driver safety records,” OOIDA said in a statement.

OOIDA is evaluating the ruling to determine its options on remand. The complete Transport Topics article is at www.ttnews.com/articles/court-says-pre-employment-screening-data-lawsuits-must-show-concrete-damage. The ruling in OOIDA v. U.S. Department of Transportation is available here.

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