A federal class action lawsuit seeks to take advantage of last month’s California Supreme Court’s red light camera decision. The high court let stand a lower court ruling that invalidated citations on the ground that the city of Santa Ana’s failed to provide the legally required warning periods before activating the automated ticketing machines (view ruling). Motorist Robert Plumleigh was forced to pay $480 on March 17, 2008 after a camera accused him of turning right at a red light at one of the sixteen intersections where the city failed to provide the required thirty-day warning period. He wants Santa Ana to refund all illegally issued tickets. US District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney on Wednesday gave Plumleigh’s lawyers an extra thirty days to file for class certification.
“City defendants have not reimbursed the fines that they forced and required plaintiffs pay, despite having issued the non-warning automated traffic camera citations to plaintiffs prior to instituting the thirty day warning notice period required under California Vehicle Code, section 21455.5(b),” Plumleigh’s lawyer, Mark P. Pifko, wrote in his brief to the court. “During the relevant time period, city defendants violated plaintiffs’ and class members’ rights under the Takings Clause of the California Constitution by taking plaintiffs’ and class members’ private property for public use without just compensation ascertained by a jury.”
The suit seeks a refund of every single ticket issued at those sixteen intersections between May 2003 and November 25, 2009. Last November, after losing on the warning issue in Orange County Superior Court court, the city finally decided to hold the required warning periods at every intersection. The class action suit names as defendants Santa Ana Police Chief Paul M. Waters, City Attorney Joseph W. Fletcher and Redflex Traffic Systems, the Australian company in charge of the ticketing program.
“As a result of the Redflex defendants’ conduct, including, but not limited to, as discussed above, failing to comply with their agreed upon contractual obligations and California law, plaintiffs and class members have been harmed by Redflex defendants’ unlawful and unfair business acts and practices as alleged herein, including but not necessarily limited to suffering injury in fact and the loss of money and property,” Pifko wrote.
Redflex in response filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that it cannot be held liable for violating the warning period statute because the law specifically applies to a “local jurisdiction,” not to a private company. Redflex also claims it has immunity from prosecution because its acts were performed in conjunction with official proceedings. A hearing on a motion to dismiss is scheduled for December 6.