Small refunds in red-light-camera settlement

Drivers can expect refunds that depend on the amount of their citations. Individual tickets were $85 or $140.
Drivers can expect refunds that depend on the amount of their citations. Individual tickets were $85 or $140. (MEL EVANS / AP)
Posted: August 09, 2013

Some drivers caught by red-light cameras in Cherry Hill, Stratford, and three other municipalities will get small refunds from the cameras' operator under a tentative $2.1 million settlement announced Wednesday.

The money, to be paid by Redflex Traffic Systems of Phoenix, will be divided among about 260,000 drivers and their lawyers.

Individual drivers involved in the class-action lawsuit can expect refunds of $8.50 or $14, depending on the amount of their citations. That equals 10 percent of the fines; individual tickets were $85 or $140.

The agreement involves tickets issued before Aug. 1, 2012, in Cherry Hill, Stratford, Newark, Edison, and Englewood Cliffs. The settlement still must be approved by the U.S. District Court in Trenton.

Drivers entitled to a refund will be mailed additional information by a claims administrator appointed by the court.

Similar refund cards are now showing up in local mailboxes from a separate $4.2 million settlement reached in December with another camera operator, American Traffic Solutions of Tempe, Ariz.

Those refunds, also $8.50 and $14, apply to about 500,000 motorists who received tickets before July 25, 2012, in Glassboro, Gloucester Township, Deptford Township, Monroe Township, Jersey City, Linden, Rahway, Palisades Park, Roselle Park, Brick, East Brunswick, East Windsor, Lawrence, Piscataway, Pohatcong, Union, Wayne, and Woodbridge.

The drivers in both lawsuits claimed that the cameras had not been properly inspected to assure that they were operating as the law required.

Last year, the state Department of Transportation said the cameras were properly calibrated, after suspending the red-light programs in 21 towns for about six weeks while the cameras were inspected.

"Considering the legal risks we faced," said plaintiffs attorney Stephen P. DeNittis of Marlton, "the case by no means was a slam dunk, so, yes, I'm happy with the settlement."

James Saunders, president and chief executive of Redflex, said, "We believe we would have prevailed on the merits of our case had we decided to move forward." He said the settlement "provides that neither Redflex nor the cities admit any liability for wrongdoing."

Erin Patterson Gill, deputy solicitor for Cherry Hill, said no changes would be made in how the cameras operate at Springfield Road and Route 70, from which $1.8 million in fines was collected for 20,956 violations between June 2011 and July 31, 2012.

Red-light cameras have been controversial - and lucrative - since New Jersey started a pilot program in 2009 to test the cameras' effectiveness in reducing crashes and injuries in 25 municipalities.

An Inquirer report last year showed that cameras at nine intersections in six municipalities in Camden and Gloucester Counties had caught 125,000 drivers and racked up $9.5 million in fines since the first installations in 2010.

In the lawsuit settled in December against ATS, not all the drivers were happy with the paltry refund, acknowledged lawyer Joseph Osefchen.

"There's no question that I would like to give everyone who paid an $85 fine a full refund," Osefchen said. "It's not as much money as we wanted, but I grew up poor, and $8 is better than no dollars."

He said his firm reviewed thousands of pages of documents and found no problems with the cameras despite questions about the certification.

ATS agreed to pay motorists 10 percent of the ticket costs rather than costly legal fees to defend the class-action lawsuit, said Charles Territo, a company spokesman.

"All the cameras in question were recertified and found to be in compliance," Territo said. "The violations were all valid."


Contact Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or pnussbaum@phillynews.com.

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