2/2/2016Ohio Appeals Court Green Lights Class Action Against Speed Cams
Technical appellate court decision clears way for class action lawsuit against speed camera appeals in New Miami, Ohio.
The speed trap town of New Miami could end up paying back the speed camera citations it illegally issued under a ruling Monday by the Ohio Court of Appeals. Since 2012, the village has allowed a private, for-profit company to set up automated ticketing machines on US Route 127 and issue more than 12,000 tickets, nearly six times the population of the village. Optotraffic kept 40 percent of the ticket amount and deposited the rest in the village's account.
A lawsuit filed in 2013 charged that the system deprived citation recipients of due process because it offered innocent motorists no realistic opportunity of defending themselves. At this stage in the litigation, New Miami's appeal only tried to argue the technical point that the motorists who sued should not be allowed to represent all affected motorists in a class action.
"It is true that the certification stage of a class action is not an appropriate time to delve into the merits of a case," Judge Robert A. Hendrickson wrote for the three-judge panel. "Specifically, we examine whether appellees have standing to assert that the [camera] ordinance violates the due course of law provision in the Ohio Constitution."
The three-judge panel found that the ticket recipients clearly meet the appropriate standing tests.
"The general public may fear or dislike the automated traffic cameras and avoid all intersections in New Miami where the cameras are positioned," Judge Hendrickson wrote. "But only persons whose vehicles were recorded by the automated traffic cameras received notices of liability. Whether they paid the penalties or not, these individuals incurred repercussions not suffered by the general public. Thus, the group of individuals who received the notice of liability was injured in a manner distinct from the public generally."
The appellate judges agreed with the lower court that the case was particularly well suited to a class action since every ticket recipient suffered the same injury -- a ticket -- and would seek the same relief -- a refund -- all of which could be efficiently resolved in a single proceeding. If the court does find the program unconstitutional, all citations will be void and the city and Optotraffic would have to refund every dollar collected.
A copy of the decision is available in a 70K PDF file at the source link below.