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Appeals court hears Girard traffic camera case

WARREN — Attorneys for Girard, Blue Line Solutions and those involved in a class-action lawsuit about speed cameras argued Thursday before the 11th District Court of Appeals.

The lawyers were arguing the merits of a judge’s ruling defining the terms of the class-action suit filed in connection with the hand-held traffic speed camera citations issued by the city.

An attorney for Blue Line Solutions also argued that the company should be removed from the lawsuit.

The appellate judges hearing the hourlong arguments — Timothy Cannon, Mary Jane Trapp and Matthew Lynch — said they will take the information under advisement and make a decision later.

Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Andrew D. Logan in July defined the class and subclasses of the class-action suit, allowing anyone to participate in the suit who was issued a citation in excess of 55 mph in the westbound construction zone of Interstate 80 between Dec. 7, 2017, and Jan. 8, 2018.

Girard issued 7,733 citations through its contracted company, Blue Line Solutions, according to court documents. The first subclass is made up of people who paid some type of fine, penalty or fees; the second is anyone who did not pay anything. Of those cited, 6,784 paid a fine and 949 did not, according to court documents.

Some 157 motorists had joined the lawsuit, and according to attorney Robert E. Cahill, who represented the city of Girard, 91 of those had their fines reduced to zero through the city’s appeal process.

“The city had an effective remedy, with 58 percent seeking administrative hearings,” Cahill told the judges.

Cahill also mentioned that the parties who were ticketed were not injured by this action because the tickets were civil citations that did not affect insurance rates or criminal records.

“The (citations) also had no impact on credit scores,” he said. “Is being hounded by a collector’s agency causing real harm?”

The plaintiffs contend they received tickets for speeding in a construction zone that was not a construction zone, but Cahill contended that most involved in the suit should have been ticketed regardless because they were traveling between 75 and 92 miles per hour.

Cleveland attorney Marc Dann, representing the plaintiffs, argued that Girard issued inaccurate citations, and those going over 75 mph were given the wrong amount of how much they exceeded the speed limit.

Dann stated the speed limit automatically reverted back to 65 mph when the construction was completed, according to Ohio law.

“ODOT (the Ohio Department of Transportation) only has discretion to reduce the miles per hour in order to protect their workers during the construction period,” Dann told the judges.

Dann noted there is a lot of litigation going on around Ohio on the traffic camera issue. He said there is a Cleveland case being argued about lease holders of vehicles not receiving notification of traffic camera citations because they go to the title holders of the vehicles.

He also said the appeal process is not open to those from across the country who drive Interstate 80.

“This is less than a one-mile stretch of a major corridor that people from all over the country travel use. The appeal process is not a reality for those who have to come back to little Girard, Ohio,” Dann said.

Attorney Robert S. Yallech, representing Blue Line Solutions, said his client did not issue the citations.

“We are a technology provider. We are not a government entity,” Yallech said. “Blue Line Solutions doesn’t owe anybody a constitutional right. It is a private company.”

Yallech said Blue Line processes the tickets and mails them out, but the city of Girard made the decisions on whether to issue them.

Dann countered that Blue Line did receive 40 percent of the fines that the citations generated.

“These are the ill-gotten gains and they hold a share of restitution in this case,” Dann said.“It takes two parties to have a civil conspiracy.”

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