Red-Light Camera Company Agrees To $2.1M Settlement of Class Suits

Red-Light Camera Company Agrees To $2.1M Settlement of Class Suits Martin Muransky

An operator of red-light cameras alleged not to be compliant with New Jersey law has agreed to pay $2.1 million to settle class-action suits alleging federal rights violations.

Drivers ticketed based on Redflex Traffic Systems’ cameras in five towns—Cherry Hill, Edison, Englewood Cliffs, Newark and Stratford—would get refunds of 10 percent on fines up to $140 if the settlement is approved.

Redflex, of Phoenix, Ariz., would pay the $2.1 million on behalf of itself and the five towns, and class counsel fees of $420,000 would come out of the total.

U.S. District Judge Peter Sheridan will decide on June 2 the motion for final approval of the settlement and on the proposed counsel fees.

The settlement also calls for appointment of a special master, former U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel Rosen, to monitor Redflex’s compliance with state law and to certify his findings to the court. Rosen’s costs, yet to be determined, would be paid in equal parts by Redflex and the settlement fund.

The suits, filed in federal court under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claim Redflex and the five municipalities violated state law by failing to submit an initial certification and subsequent inspection reports every six months stating that the traffic signals meet state Department of Transportation standards for yellow-light timing.

The Legislature authorized installation of red-light cameras in a five-year pilot project that started in 2009. The law sets minimum intervals for the yellow light based on the average speed of traffic approaching an intersection.

But in June 2012, the DOT suspended issuance of red-light camera tickets in 21 towns, including the five municipal defendants in the Redflex case, based on their failure to submit the certification required by state law. No tickets were issued from their cameras for about a month until they showed they had obtained the certification.

The case, Spector v. Redflex Traffic Systems, consolidates nine suits. Stephen DeNittis and Joseph Osefchen of DeNittis Osefchen of Marlton brought suits against each of the five towns, and Ross Schmierer, of Paris, Ackerman & Schmierer of Roseland, filed suits against all but Englewood Cliffs.

Rosen, as special master, would be charged with certifying that the technology provided by Redflex supports a finding that a violation has occurred and that the system operates efficiently and effectively. His report to Sheridan, due within 90 days of the settlement’s approval, would be filed under seal to protect Redflex from disclosure of trade secrets, according to court papers.

In addition, Redflex would conduct educational presentations in communities where its cameras are located and produce and disseminate a video to explain how the red light camera program works. The video would touch on how the proceeds from each violation are distributed among the municipality and other government entities and how Redflex is compensated. It would be made available on Redflex’s website and advertised for 30 days on www.nj.com or an equivalent statewide news service.

DeNittis, Osefchen and Schmierer did not return calls. Their fee petition says the amount sought is far less than their lodestar of $595,194.

Redflex’s lawyer, Dennis Drasco of Lum, Drasco & Positan in Roseland, did not return a call.

In September 2013, Sheridan approved a similar settlement in a class action against another red-light camera operator, American Traffic Solutions.

That suit, which was brought by the same two law firms as in the Redflex case, made similar claims about the failure to obtain certifications for red-light cameras in 11 towns.

The settlement fund in that case was $4.2 million and, as proposed in the Redflex case, class members got refunds equal to 10 percent of the fines they paid on their violations.

Rosen, of Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads in Cherry Hill, was also the special master in the American Traffic Solutions case.

Contact the reporter at ctoutant@alm.com.

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