8/8/2018Florida: Jury Trial Set In Case Against Florida Traffic Camera Fees
Convenience fees for red light camera ticket payments becomes subject of $29 million federal class action lawsuit in Florida.
A federal jury may have the opportunity to decide whether American Traffic Solutions (ATS, now Verra Mobility) has been illegally tacking on fees to red light camera tickets in Florida. US District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks on Monday set a tentative March 19 date for a trial in the case against the Arizona company over the imposition of fees that were never authorized by the legislature.
Florida law specifically prohibits paying red light camera companies according to the number of tickets issued. Attorneys Bret L. Lusskin, Scott D. Owens and Keith J. Keogh launched a class action suit in June challenging the five percent "convenience" fees imposed on motorists for each photo ticket paid with a credit card.
"ATS is authorized to charge, collect and retain a convenience fee of up to five percent of the total dollar amount of each electronic payment processed," North Miami Beach's contract with ATS states. "Such convenience fees are paid by the violator."
Most Florida photo fines are $158, which makes the surcharge $7.90. Since three out of four motorists who pay their tickets do so online or over the phone, the lawyers estimate ATS has collected 3.7 million such fees in the past five years, worth $29 million. The suit demands the money be refunded. The complaint also alleges that ATS is operating as a "money services business" under Florida law without a proper license.
"ATS, in conjunction with numerous municipalities and counties throughout Florida, has illegally appropriated millions of dollars from Floridians in violation of Florida law," Lusskin, Owens and Keogh wrote. "ATS's actions are unconscionable, fraudulent, and criminal, to such an extent that a significant proportion of Florida's citizenry have been directly damaged by ATS's conduct."
ATS wants Judge Middlebrooks to toss the case before it can ever come before a jury. The firm argues that the convenience fee is voluntary and that vehicle owners who do not want to pay it can just send a check in the mail.
"The $7.90 charge is not a commission from revenue collected from violations detected through the city's use of ATS's red-light cameras, nor is that charge a fee based upon the number of violations detected through the city's use of ATS's red-light cameras," ATS attorney Kevin P. McCoy wrote.