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Doe v. Chao, 2004 WL 330043 (U.S., Feb. 24, 2004). When plaintiff Buck Doe filed a claim for benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act with the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, a division of the Department of Labor, he was required to provide the agency with his Social Security number. The agency then used the number to identify the applicant's claim on documents such as "multicaptioned" notices of hearing dates, which were sent to groups of claimants, as well as to their employers and attorneys. This practice exceeded limitations on use of Social Security numbers established by the federal Privacy Act of 1974. (1)
Doe, along with six other claimants, brought suit against the Department of Labor, and sought to certify a class action on behalf of all claimants for Black Lung Benefits since passage of the Privacy Act. Class action certification was denied by the district court, and judgment was entered against all of the individual claimants except Doe on grounds that plaintiffs failed to prove that they had suffered any cognizable harm.
With regard to Doe, the court accepted his uncontroverted evidence that he had suffered emotional distress on learning of the …