SPECIAL REPORT: Judge narrows DAC case; truckers’ team optimistic

| 8/31/2006

Aug. 31, 2006 - DENVER Lawyers for DAC Services Inc. rested their case today, wrapping up their defense of the company's collection and sale of truckers' work histories. The federal case could ultimately help set a new standard for consumers' rights to protect their private information.

Earlier this week, the DAC lawyers asked U.S. District Court Judge Robert E. Blackburn to throw out the entire case. That request came Tuesday, the day after the attorneys representing six truckers rested their case against DAC.

Blackburn ruled partially in favor of DAC on a technicality, throwing out three of the truckers' four claims. However, the lead attorney for the truckers told Land Line Magazine Wednesday afternoon that the ruling was just one battle in a much larger war.

"This is far from over," said Randall S. Herrick-Stare, who is leading the legal team from the Cullen Law Firm in Washington, DC. "And there is a silver lining to this ruling. More than one, I believe."

In pursuit of one of those silver linings, Herrick-Stare worked late with attorneys Paul Cullen Sr. and Paul Cullen Jr. Tuesday night and again the next morning before court resumed.

By the time court convened Wednesday, the truckers' legal team had researched and written a revision to their key complaint against USIS Commercial Services Inc., which does business as DAC.

The revised complaint incorporates the substance of the judge's decision to throw out three of the truckers' four claims.

In his ruling - which he handed down before bringing the jury into the courtroom Tuesday morning - Blackburn repeatedly said that because DAC was neither an employer nor a prospective employer when it procured, compiled and then sold the truckers' work history reports, certain provisions in the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act do not apply to those reports.

In other words, being the middleman between motor carriers who provide reports on drivers and buy reports on prospective drivers provides DAC shelter.

Federal law does require accuracy and limits how such information can be transferred, but Blackburn said that those limitations only apply if the transfer involves an employer or a prospective employer - not the middleman who collects, compiles and then sells the data.

He also said that even if DAC sold what it knew to be inaccurate information about truckers, it wouldn't be a violation because DAC is not an employer or a prospective employer and the law only addresses what employers and prospective employers do with such information.

With that ruling in place, the truckers' attorneys were able to refine their complaint.

"The flip side (to the judge's ruling) is you can't transfer consumer reports to just anyone," said Herrick-Stare, adding that another positive aspect to the judge's ruling was that it makes it clear that if DAC receives negative information on a driver, a provision in the law is triggered requiring that the driver be notified.

And, if the jury finds that DAC has acted willfully and violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Herrick-Stare said it could be "a big fat piece of law" in the area of consumer reports and the rights of the individuals those reports are about.

That's an even larger impact than the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association was seeking when it filed the case against DAC in 2004. OOIDA asked for Blackburn to certify the case as a class action, with the class including every driver who has been the subject of a DAC report since July 7, 1999.

The judge denied that class-action status earlier this year, but the case moved forward with seven individual truckers named as plaintiffs. Blackburn then deleted one of those truckers when he ruled that the trucker's complaint against DAC was under the jurisdiction of the bankruptcy court.

Then, earlier this week, Blackburn trimmed the plaintiffs to four. He ruled Tuesday that two of the truckers could not proceed because they testified that their DAC reports did not have inaccuracies.

The jury is now released for the Labor Day holiday weekend, with closing statements in the case scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 5.

- By Coral Beach, staff editor