Court dismisses Alabama trucking company’s lawsuit against FMCSA

May 13, 2019

Mark Schremmer


Saying that the case lacked standing, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit dismissed Flat Creek Transportation’s lawsuit against FMCSA that claimed the agency unfairly targeted the trucking company for compliance reviews.

Flat Creek, Kinston, Ala., also named U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and former Secretary Anthony Foxx in the lawsuit, alleging that the FMCSA used an unsound methodology to “consistently but illegally” target the company.

Flat Creek’s managing member is Charles Patterson Sr. His son, Charles Patterson Jr., operates a separate trucking company, Liberty Express.

According to court documents, FMCSA’s Alabama division conducted a compliance review of Liberty in July 2016. Flat Creek alleged that during the review of Liberty, FMCSA asked “a bunch of questions” about Flat Creek. Soon after, Flat Creek said its regulatory consultant “received surreptitious reports from confidential informant(s) that agents … planned an unannounced on-site compliance investigation at Flat Creek with the intent to falsely charge Flat Creek with multiple regulatory violations sufficient to … force a cessation of Flat Creek’s operations and likely leading to business closure.”

However, none of Flat Creek’s additional compliance reviews resulted in a safety rating less than satisfactory. While Flat Creek initially received a conditional safety rating, it was upgraded to satisfactory while the litigation was ongoing.

“Flat Creek’s allegations don’t meet the constitutional standard,” the 11th Circuit wrote. “Flat Creek received a satisfactory safety rating, the highest possible mark. Flat Creek certainly suffered no cognizable injury as a result of a passing rating.”

Separately, Flat Creek alleged that it continues to suffer present injury, because it remains subject to an enhanced threat of future compliance reviews.

“Because Flat Creek has shown neither concreteness nor imminence, it has failed to establish that it has suffered a cognizable injury in fact,” the 11th Circuit wrote.