No Damages For OPM Data Breach

A federal court has sided in favor of OPM and one of its contractors in lawsuits filed by AFGE and NTEU seeking damages in the data breaches that exposed the personal data of over 20 million current and former federal employees.

The 74-page decision by Judge Amy Berman Jackson is found at In Re: U.S. Office of Personnel Management Data Security Breach Litigation, Misc. Action No. 15-1394 (ABJ), 9/19/17.

Judge Jackson ruled on two consolidated class action complaints seeking damages for those affected by the breach.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and 38 individuals filed one complaint, suing on behalf of the 21-million+ people whose data were compromised. They sought damages under several laws against OPM and KeyPoint Government Solutions, a contractor that performed OPM background investigations, whose computer systems were also breached.

The National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) and 3 individuals, citing a breach of their constitutional right to privacy, filed the other complaint against the OPM Acting Director.

The court acknowledges in its decision that “There is no doubt that something bad happened, and many people are understandably chagrined and concerned.” Nevertheless, the court must first address this “fundamental question: whether plaintiffs have set forth a cause of action that a court has the power to hear.” (Opinion p. 3)  It held that they have failed to do so.

Citing Article III of the U.S. Constitution, the court has ruled that plaintiffs’ suits cannot stand. To present a valid case that the court may adjudicate, plaintiffs must have standing to sue, and the U.S. Government must have consented to be sued. Assuming the plaintiffs can meet these two tests, they then have to state a valid legal claim. The court held that the plaintiffs have met none of these tests.

Consequently, the court has granted summary judgment for the defendants.

Next stop for the plaintiffs is the federal appeals court.

OPM Data Breach Litigation

About the Author

Susan McGuire Smith spent most of her federal legal career with NASA, serving as Chief Counsel at Marshall Space Flight Center for 14 years. Her expertise is in government contracts, ethics, and personnel law.