In 2005, a joint investigation between separate government agencies revealed that Stanmore Cooper, a pilot, failed to disclose to the Federal Aviation Administration that he was HIV positive. Cooper sued the agencies in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, claiming that they violated the Privacy Act by disclosing his medical records to one another without his consent. Alleging that the unlawful disclosure of his condition caused him severe emotional distress, Cooper sought monetary relief under the Privacy Act’s civil remedies provision, which establishes a cause of action against the government for “actual damages.” The dispositive issue in Federal Aviation Administration v. Cooper was whether the term “actual damages” includes damages for emotional or mental harm.