Nearly 900,000 people who paid fines for red-light camera tickets in Missouri can apply for partial refunds under a proposed settlement of a class action lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed against American Traffic Solutions, which operated the cameras in 27 Missouri cities. A claims administrator recently sent out postcards telling people how to apply for a 20 percent cash payment for any fine they paid for violations between 2005 and November 2014. Those who wish to preserve their right to sue individually can opt out.
"I'm glad that they're trying to give back some of the money that we did spend because I did pay my ticket, because it was before everyone started griping about it,” said Ann Michael, whose daughter was behind the wheel when the ticket was issued.
A response is due by Feb. 28 and a court hearing to consider approving the final settlement is scheduled for March 13.
Class action lawsuits filed in St. Louis County Circuit Court alleged that the red-light cameras conflict with state law. American Traffic Solutions denied the allegations but agreed to pay the partial refunds to resolve all pending claims on behalf of the 27 communities. The total value of the settlement has been estimated at $16 million.
American Traffic Solutions and attorneys for the plaintiffs said in a joint statement to The Kansas City Star that the 20 percent refund on the fines was arrived at through negotiations.
"After many years of litigation, notable appellate court decisions, and the uncertainty of continued litigation, this settlement puts these civil class action claims to rest statewide, and we believe offers the class members a partial refund that is fair, adequate and reasonable under the circumstances," the statement said.
George Heymach of Kansas City, who received notice about a week ago, said the postcard directed him to a website, www.MORLCEnforcement.com, where he put in his ID number and was able to easily apply for the refund.
"Once I decided to read the card, and I went to the website, it was frankly very straightforward," he said.
A lawyer KCTV5 talked to said all the pending cases of unpaid tickets were put into a docket instead of being dismissed and says the city could come back and try to prosecute the people who didn't pay if the Supreme Court rules that red-light cameras are constitutional.
The lawyer did say, though, that the city may have a tough time legally because they would be prosecuting cases under a new ordinance. The legal expert said drivers who didn't pay may be off the hook.
“I don't think that's fair at all. I did what the law said and I paid my ticket like I should so why should I be punished $80 for doing the right thing?" Michael said.
Kansas City began using the program in 2009 but stopped in November 2013 because of conflicting appeals court rulings over legally operating red-light camera programs under state law. Missouri cities are awaiting a state Supreme Court ruling this year for guidance on two key questions: Whether it was appropriate to presume the vehicle's owner was the driver, and whether the city programs can be enforced because they don't treat the red-light camera tickets as moving violations with points against a person's driver's license.
The proposed settlement would resolve the issue of refunds on fines already paid.
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