State Supreme Court says stop challenging credit card fee for red light traffic camera charge

In a potential class-action lawsuit, the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a motorist’s challenge to pay a credit card fee charged after he was caught on camera driving through a red light.

Judges unanimously ruled against Steven Pincus, who filed the lawsuit in 2018 after he was fined $158 for a red light violation in North Miami Beach. Pincus alleged that American Traffic Solutions, Inc., which had a contract to run the city’s red light camera program, wrongly paid a $7.90 fee when he paid with a credit card.

A federal district judge in South Florida ruled against Pincus, who then took the case to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Atlanta-based appeals court last year asked the Florida Supreme Court to determine whether American Traffic Solutions violated state law in charging the fee — a move known as certifying a question to the state court.

The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected Pincus’ argument that the company had been “unjustly enriched” with the compensation.

In an eight-page op-ed, Judge Jorge Labarga wrote that American Traffic Solutions gave “value” in return for the fee. As an example, he wrote that Pincus didn’t have to buy postage or use a check or money order to pay the traffic fine; could pay the balance over time; and the risk of delay, theft or loss of payment is avoided.

Accordingly, Pincus’s claim for unjust enrichment fails because he has failed to allege that a benefit granted and accepted would be unjust for ATS (American Traffic Solutions) to retain,” the opinion said.

The Supreme Court decision sends the case back to the federal appeals court.

Red light cameras in Florida have long been controversial and have led to a variety of legal challenges.

During arguments in October before the Supreme Court, Bret Lusskin, a lawyer for Pincus, argued that the additional compensation was not allowed by state laws aimed at unified traffic regulations. He also said that American Traffic Solutions, a major player in the red light camera industry, cannot require motorists to pay additional fees and that it is an “illusion that this is voluntary”.

“There is $7.90 in the hands of ATS that should be in the hands of Mr. Pincus,” Lusskin said. “It was illegal for them to impose any additional fee, fine, surcharge or charge, and it is illegal to collect a commission.”

But Joseph Lang, an American Traffic Solutions attorney, pointed to Pincus’ decision to pay with a credit card instead of using another method.

“While he was forced to pay the violation, he was certainly in no way forced to pay by credit card,” Lang said during the October arguments. “He could have paid with a money order or a check and not have incurred the expense.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.