“[I]f inaccurate information falls into a government database, does it make a sound?” Partly affirming summary judgment for the defendant in Owner-Operator Indep. Drivers Ass’n, v. DOT, No. 16-5355 (D.C. Cir. Jan. 12, 2018), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit answered its own question in the negative and held that a handful of truck drivers lacked standing to sue over the existence of allegedly inaccurate driver information in a government database. However, the court also ruled that two truck drivers about whom information was disseminated could overcome the Spokeo bar that sunk the claims of their peers and permitted their claims to go forward. In doing so, the appeals court helped clarify what actions in the digital realm rise to the level of concrete harm.
Plaintiffs in Owner-Operator were five commercial truck drivers and their industry association. Pursuant to federal regulations, the drivers’ safety records were contained in the Motor Carrier Management Information System, which employers may access through the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Pre-Employment Screening Program. Each of the plaintiff drivers successfully challenged safety citations they had received in court, and then asked to have the citation reports removed from the safety record database.