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11/2/2011Another Florida City Settles Suit Over Illegal Photo Ticketing
Hallandale Beach, Florida to approve a settlement refunding a third of the cost of all red light camera tickets issued before July 2010.
Many Florida municipalities now regret jumping the gun and installing red light cameras before the state legislature authorized their use in 2010. The Hallandale Beach city commission will vote later today to approve a settlement of $375,566 to be repaid to vehicle owners who were mailed tickets before the program was actually legal. American Traffic Solutions (ATS), which controlled the program, will pay $43,221 -- its proportional share of the amount.
Attorney Jason D. Weisser had filed a lawsuit against Hallandale Beach, its vendor ATS and all of the other towns that jumped the photo ticketing gun. He argued the city and ATS were guilty of unjust enrichment and the tort of conversion. Fearing legal defeat, Pembroke Pines was among the first to settle in June. Partial refunds will now be given to "all who have been cited and paid fines to the defendants prior to July 1, 2010 for violations of the ordinance." ATS had already signed off on the deal in February.
"The stipulation is intended by the settling parties to fully, finally and forever resolve, discharge and settle the litigation and all released claims against all released persons," the proposed settlement states. "The settling defendants have concluded that further conduct of the litigation would be protracted and expensive and that it is desirable that the litigation be fully and finally settled in the manner and upon the terms and conditions set forth in this stipulation. They also have taken into account the uncertainty and risks inherent in any litigation, especially in complex cases such as this litigation "
Although it authorizes issuance of partial refunds, the settlement stipulates for legal reasons that neither Hallandale Beach nor ATS admit they ever did anything wrong. The settlement allows the city and ATS to pay thirty percent of the amount of money they collected -- far less than they would have to pay than if they had gone to court and lost, as happened in Minneapolis, Minnesota over the same issue (view settlement). Settlement allows the city to escape the full cost of refunds and attorneys' fees.
Cities that adopted the cameras may find themselves in more trouble as new members of the state legislature already have a House majority opposed to automated ticketing machines. Another push will be made to repeal the authorization in the next session.
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