9/4/2015California Courts Protect Red Light Camera Collection Agency
California Court of Appeal rules that this is the wrong plaintiff and wrong lawyer to challenge red light camera collection tactics.
California's second highest court on Thursday blocked a class action lawsuit against a red light camera collection agency. Motorist Richard Howard had filed suit against GC Services after he received notices falsely claiming that he owed $680 to the Los Angeles County Superior Court over an unpaid red light camera citation. The state Court of Appeal refused to allow his claim to be heard by a jury because this was the wrong person, with the wrong lawyer, to bring the case as a class action.
When Howard received a collection letter on July 12, 2010, he was confused as he had never received any photo ticket in the mail. Howard lives six hours away from Los Angeles in Concord, and he had not driven that far south since 1999. The state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) knew nothing about the citation.
Howard's suit argues that the collections letter was filled with fraudulent claims, including the false statement that the county court would garnish his wages if he failed to pay up immediately. In Los Angeles County, the court actually refused to enforce photo tickets, which led to the city dropping its camera program entirely. The collection letters were sent to as many as 22,000 motorists.
The three-judge appellate panel basically held that Howard and his attorney failed to make a convincing case. County court officials refused to testify in a deposition, and Howard was left with citing little more than news reports as evidence.
"The trial court determined that plaintiff had failed to support his theory regarding LA County Superior Court's policy," Justice Marla J. Miller wrote for the panel. "The court's finding is supported by the record, or more accurately, by the lack of substantial evidence from plaintiff."
The court argued that because GC Services also made phone calls and sent different letters to some ticket recipients, a class action would be inappropriate as the calls and letters may have made different assertions. Moreover, the appellate panel found Howard's situation unique.
"In this case, when plaintiff received defendant's, letter, he knew he had not been in Southern California in over seven years and that he had never received any citation there," Justice Miller wrote. "He therefore knew that he did not owe money to LACSC. Further, he knew he was the victim of identity theft and had reason to suspect that this was the reason he had received defendant's letter. As a result, while plaintiff alleges that the class members were misled into paying the balance listed in defendant's letter, plaintiff himself was not misled in this way."
A copy of the ruling is available in a 300k PDF file at the source link below.