The aviation legal skies are swarming after an 800,000-plus-person lawsuit crashed into the FAA last week, alleging the federal agency wrongly collected personal data and money under drone regulations later declared illegal.
Robert Taylor v. FAA is the second such class action suit filed against the FAA in as many years and has a fraternal connection with the first. In 2015, Taylor’s brother, John, filed suit claiming that Part 48 of FAA drone registration rules applying to model aircraft was illegal. In May, a federal appeals court agreed, vacating the model-aircraft registration requirements. However, the December passage of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 effectively rescinded the ruling.
On Jan. 5, Robert filed a four-count challenge, claiming the agency violated the previous Taylor decision by collecting money and personal information under Part 48.
“[The FAA] did not delete the registry or refund the money,” writes aviation attorney Jonathan Rupprecht in a recent blog post (Rupprecht is not involved in the case). He added that, if the court finds for Robert and the more-than 836,000 other plaintiffs, “each injured party is entitled to $1,000 in statutory damages.”
The suit also claims:
“[The FAA] violated Plaintiff and the Class’s Constitutional and privacy rights by unlawfully promulgating the Registration Rule and enforcing the Registration Rule without any statutory authority to do so. Further, once the D.C. Circuit vacated the Registration Rule, the Defendants did not delete the private and personal information of Model Aircraft owners and did not refund their registration fees. In addition, the Defendants unlawfully continued the registration process and unlawfully maintained Plaintiff and the Class’s private and personal information even after the D.C. Circuit held that the Defendants were prohibited from doing so.”
Rupprecht points out that, if successful, the suit could result in an almost-$1 billion award.
“The lawsuit is seeking $5 back for the class ($4,183,980), Privacy Act violation statutory damages of $1,000 EACH for the members of the class ($ 836,796,000). In sum, we’re looking at almost 841 million plus attorneys fees.”