OOIDA's Data Q lawsuits consolidated, ready to move forward

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | 5/9/2014

Two lawsuits filed by OOIDA challenging the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s handling of challenged driver data used in the Pre-Employment Screening Program have been combined and are now ready to move forward.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association launched a pair of lawsuits in 2012 and 2013 against FMCSA challenging the agency’s data correction procedures on driver records.

The agency maintains inspection and crash records on drivers, stored in the Motor Carrier Management Information System. Both the Pre-Employment Screening Program – PSP for short – and the Compliance, Safety, Accountability Program use those driver records. The PSP program is available to motor carriers to screen compliance records of drivers before hiring them. CSA is the agency’s compliance measurement program used for enforcement on motor carriers and drivers.

Drivers involved in both of OOIDA’s lawsuits all had violations found during roadside inspections and fought the accompanying citations in court. All of the plaintiffs had the citations dismissed in court. However, when they attempted to have the corresponding violations removed from driver records maintained by FMCSA, they were denied.

Currently when driver, and motor carrier, violation records are challenged through the agency’s Data Q process, the agency defers to the jurisdiction where the violation originated to make the decision.

OOIDA filed its first lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the D.C. Circuit in July 2012.

The Association along with four members – Brian E. Kelley, Robert Lohmeier, Klint Mowrer and J. Mark Moody – filed the suit against FMCSA.

FMCSA launched an initial defense by contesting the court’s jurisdiction over the case. The Department of Justice was arguing there that the case was filed in the wrong court and that only a federal appellate court could hear the challenges of drivers.

Such jurisdictional issues are often used by the government to delay and sometimes to prevent judicial review, according to OOIDA’s litigation counsel, The Cullen Law Firm.

So, OOIDA filed a second lawsuit, this one on behalf of Fred Weaver, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia asking the court to rule on the jurisdictional issue and to transfer Weaver’s case to district court if it agreed with OOIDA’s position.

The original federal district court hearing the case filed by OOIDA stayed further action pending the outcome of Weaver’s appeal.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in OOIDA and Weaver’s favor in February 2014 and that sent Weaver’s case to the U.S. District Court for the D.C. Circuit along with the original OOIDA Data Q lawsuit.

In late April Judge Beryl Howell with the district court granted a motion filed by OOIDA to consolidate the two cases. The judge also ruled that a consolidated complaint could be filed, essentially green-lighting the combined case to move forward.

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