Judge Gives Green Light to Red Light Camera Case

On August 10, 2015, US District Court Judge Federico Moreno entered an order allowing a case against private red light camera vendors and their local government clients to go forward overruling several objections made in the defendants’ collective motions’ to dismiss.

iStock_000029063452Medium-1Farmer Jaffe are counsel with other attorneys representing plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit filed in October 2014, in federal court in Miami, against local governments from around the state and for-profit vendors of the red-light monitoring systems placed at various intersections across Florida. Individual plaintiffs brought the case on behalf of themselves and other drivers of vehicles that vendors imaged with red-light cameras, and as a result, the drivers paid fines shared directly or indirectly among the local governments, the vendors, and the State of Florida. In their suit, the plaintiffs contend that the local governments unlawfully delegated their police powers and outsourced them to for-profit vendors that routinely made fundamental decisions regarding who did and did not receive traffic tickets resulting from the red-light cameras the vendors installed and monitored.

In his ruling, Judge Moreno read Florida law “to pronounce that drivers are injured upon the receipt of an unlawfully issued red light citation, irrespective of whether the driver actually deserved the citation for running a red light.” (citing City of Hollywood v. Arem, 154 So. 3d 359, 365 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2014)).

Based on the allegations in the suit, the Court noted that the vendors and local governments had created a “marketplace for drivers who believed they owed money to satisfy unlawful fines,” and the vendors were enriched “both by the Plaintiffs who paid a convenience fee to satisfy their fines and by the Local Governments that contracted with the Vendors to implement and administer red light ticketing programs.” He found further that “[t]he Local Governments profited directly from the funds paid through the Vendors, and these funds were unjustly realized because, regardless of the merits of the underlying traffic violations, the fines were paid to satisfy tickets that were void ab initio.”

Judge Moreno also determined based on the allegations in the complaint that sovereign immunity didn’t protect local governments from suit for fines extracted in response to allegedly unlawfully issued red light camera violations (citing Bill Stroop Roofing, Inc. v. Metropolitan Dade County, 788 So. 2d 365, 367 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2001)).

The on-going case is Christopher Parker, et al. v. American Traffic Solutions, Inc., et al., Case No.14-CIV-24010-M (SD Fla.).

Attorneys at Farmer, Jaffe, Weissing, Edwards, Fistos & Lehrman, P.L., have an active class action practice.