Girard seeks dismissal of speed camera suit

Attorneys for the City of Girard want a federal judge to dismiss a class-action lawsuit against speed-camera tickets issued over the course of a month on Interstate 80 when the posted speed limit was slower than the actual speed limit.

The ordinance the city uses to police speeding states violating a “posted speed limit” is what leads to a citation, the motion to dismiss filed by attorneys with the Cleveland firm Sutter O’Connell Co. states.

The complaint doesn’t amount to a violation of the plaintiffs’ rights because they had an opportunity to dispute the tickets in an administrative hearing but chose not to, the motion states.

But Marc Dann, one of the Cleveland attorneys pursuing the case and the former state attorney general from Liberty, said he doesn’t think the motion to dismiss will be the end of the case.

“It hasn’t changed my view. We still have an actionable claim,” Dann said.

The case has generated a lot of interest, Dann said. Hundreds of people have called his law firm to be added as plaintiffs, Dann said.

The lawsuit claims that although construction on a portion of Interstate 80 in Girard ended Dec. 7, speed cameras continued to issue tickets based on the reduced 55 mph speed limit until Jan. 7.

A spokesman with the Ohio Department of Transportation said the speed limit had legally returned to 65 mph on Dec. 7, but ODOT was unable to change the signs until Jan. 8.

As is standard procedure, the speed limit was reduced while construction crews worked on the road, but as soon as the presence of construction equipment and concrete barrier walls were removed, the limit automatically went back to normal, according to ODOT.

ODOT does not communicate to towns and cities when the speed limit changes.

The city’s motion to dismiss the case states the due process rights of the ticketed were not violated for several reasons.

“The enforced speed limit was posted, giving plaintiffs sufficient notice of the potential for a speeding citation if they traveled in excess of the posted speed,” it states.

The three named plaintiffs were going 66 mph, 67 mph and 75 mph and none pursued an administrative hearing to argue they shouldn’t have to pay. But the hearing was their path to due process, the motion states.

And, the plaintiffs were speeding, even if the posted limit had been 65 mph, the motion states.

“A 55 mph speed limit was posted for all drivers, including plaintiffs, giving them adequate notice of the potential for a speeding citation if they traveled in excess of the posted speed,” it states.

The plaintiffs haven’t been denied a fundamental right and the issue has not come “even remotely close to the egregious behavior required to shock the conscience,” the defendants argue.

The complaint against the city calls the benefit Girard received from these citations “unconscionable … to retain.”

Dann said he believes the case amounts to a “classic case of consumer fraud” and he has some “strong arguments” he wants to make in court.

The lawsuit creates two subclasses of representees, those who paid any fees or other charges and those who have not, and it lists as plaintiffs three northeast Ohio residents who paid between $104 and $179 in ticket fees because they did not believe they could successfully contest it.

The case was filed in the United States District Court Northern District of Ohio Eastern Division and has been assigned to Judge Benita Y. Pearson.