Despite a major settlement earlier this year, the city of Chicago is facing further legal action over the validity of its red light camera program.
Four named plaintiffs filed an unjust enrichment complaint Sept. 17 in Cook County Circuit Court, saying the citations issued under the red light camera program don’t comply with state law or city code. They want the court to prevent the city from issuing further citations stemming from camera use and recover all fines and penalties issued through more than 2 million violation notices in the preceding five years.
The complaint comes nearly seven months after lawyers representing a class of nearly 450,000 plaintiffs secured final approval from a Cook County judge of a settlement with the city, granting what they said was $58 in relief on average for those who received tickets under the program from 2010-2015. While the city directly paid $38 million to settle the lawsuit, plaintiffs' lawyers pegged the total actual value of the settlement at $125 million, once all city concessions were factored in.
According to the current plaintiffs, all represented by Roth Fioretti LLC, the violation statements issued to vehicle owners don’t contain all the language required in the state’s Red Light Camera Act. Specifically, the complaint accuses the city of omitting a statement that the recorded images constitute evidence of a violation and a warning that failure to pay civil penalties, complete driving school or contest the ticket are seen as an admission of guilt and can lead to suspended driving privileges.
In arguing this point, the plaintiffs point out the city’s notices for camera-generated speeding tickets contain the type of language omitted from the red light tickets, though the Speed Camera Act contains the same mandatory provisions as the state red light camera law. The plaintiffs also maintain the notices violate Chicago Municipal Code provisions.
The case resolved through settlement in February was different. That class action involved more than 1.1 million people fined $100 per violation under the red light camera program, even though they neither received two notices nor received the proper amount of time to contest the tickets before late fees and other costs were tacked on, as required under the city’s red light camera ordinance.
One of the named plaintiffs in the current action, Matthew Kennedy, said he contested the two red light tickets by explaining the language omitted from the violation notice, and said administrative law judges in both hearings didn’t address or consider his argument. The other named plaintiffs, Vincent Saisi, Riza Milovic and Victor Zisman, paid most of their tickets but said they weren’t aware the notices were legally invalid.
“Chicago’s red light camera violation notices are coercive and are paid under duress,” according to the complaint, which calls for the class to include more than 2 million other people who have received a red light camera ticket dating since Sept. 17, 2013, with subclasses for those who paid their fines and those who didn’t. The plaintiffs want the court to determine every ticket issued under the program should be retroactively voided.
In addition to class certification, the plaintiffs want all red light camera violations from the last five years to be stricken from all records and databases. They also seek “the expungement of derogatory credit information from the credit report of any person with an unpaid or belatedly paid” red light camera ticket, as well as to be reimbursed for their legal fees.