10/29/2014Court: No Relief For Man Falsely Accused Of Running Red Light
Federal judge rules that a man cannot sue a traffic camera or insurance company over a bogus red light camera ticket.
Lawrence E. Armstrong, a white man, was penalized because he shared a similar name with a Mitsubishi-driving black man who was photographed in California running a red light. In that state, red light camera tickets carry license points, so Armstrong's insurance rates went up. Armstrong filed a lawsuit against American Traffic Solutions (ATS) and Amco Insurance over the incident, but a federal judge last week decided there was nothing the court could do about it.
Armstrong and his attorney had no way of knowing who was responsible hiking Armstrong's insurance rates, so they charged every company that could have been involved with violating the federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) for misusing his personal information. US District Court Judge Jesus G. Bernal was not persuaded.
ATS could not be sued for inserting the Mitsubishi owner's private personal information into the plaintiff's record. Because, if ATS did so, the firm would have violated the Mitsubishi owner's privacy, not Armstrong's. Armstrong had no right to sue on anyone else's behalf. The insurance company also could not be charged because the privacy law was crafted to prevent a different kind of abuse.
"The DPPA does not protect against improper rating of his insurance policy; it protects against improper use of plaintiff's personal information," Judge Bernal ruled. "At various points, the [Armstrong's complaint] admits that AMCO relied on the information in plaintiff's DMV record to rate his insurance policy, thus its use appears to be within the scope of permissible purposes."
The judge suggested that a government employee was most likely the culprit in mistakenly adding a conviction to Armstrong's record.
"Pursuant to California Vehicle Code Section 1803, the clerk of a court, not an insurance company or agent of a city, is responsible for reporting conviction information to the DMV," Judge Bernal wrote. "Accordingly, plaintiff provides no facts from which one could plausibly conclude that either AMCO or ATS had the ability to add or change conviction information in a driver's record or that they, as opposed to the DMV or clerk of the court, plausibly performed the actions alleged."
Judge Bernal gave Armstrong a chance to amend his complaint to clarify his argument, but the motorist did not take advantage of the second chance -- nor did he follow up with an appeal filed in the Ninth Circuit US Court of Appeal. Accordingly, the case was dismissed. A copy of the dismissal is available in a 40k PDF file at the source link below.