5/31/2017Ohio Appeals Court Blocks Speed Camera Lawsuit
Second highest court in Ohio rejects a class action lawsuit seeking refund for illegally issued speed camera tickets in Cleveland.
Ohio cities violating state laws regulating the use of speed cameras were given a free pass earlier this month by the state Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel tossed a class action lawsuit filed by motorists seeking refunds for photo tickets illegally issued in the city of Cleveland.
Motorist Allyson Eighmey filed the suit after receiving a ticket in the mail from Xerox on October 27, 2013. She and her lawyer noticed that the city's private, for-profit vendor had been ignoring a state law that required mobile speed cameras vans to be "plainly marked" as ticketing vehicles. The Xerox vans had no markings at all.
Several months after Eighmey filed the suit, however, 78 percent of Cleveland voters passed a ballot measure outlawing both speed cameras and red light cameras, but the current lawsuit asked to refund the thousands of motorists who had been ticketed while the program was active. A lower court judge agreed to certify the case as a class action.
Cleveland appealed, insisting that Eighmey lacked standing because she "voluntarily" paid her automated citation. Eighmey did pay, noting that there was no point in fighting a ticket in the city-controlled hearing. Municipal hearing officers only allow testimony regarding a very limited number of excuses for photo tickets, and the city's failure to abide by state law is not on that list.
The appellate panel, however, noted that Cleveland inserted into its photo ticketing ordinance a line that prevents people who pay a citation from fighting it later.
"Thus, by paying her ticket, Eighmey waived her right to contest the ticket and she is barred from any recovery," Judge Eileen T. Gallagher wrote for the court. "She will neither benefit from, nor be harmed by, the litigation of other potential class members who may pursue viable claims. Eighmey cannot receive redress from this litigation and, therefore, lacks standing and is unable to represent the class."
The appellate panel also rejected the argument that it would be pointless to challenge a ticket before a city-run hearing. Instead, the court made it clear that the tickets should have been thrown out at the local level.
"We see no reason why the city's failure to abide by the law could not stand as a valid defense to an unlawfully issued traffic citation under the ordinance in an appeal before the Parking Violations Bureau," Judge Gallagher wrote.
The ruling is binding on jurisdictions within Cuyahoga County. A copy of the decision is available in a 50k PDF file at the source link below.