Federal lawsuit challenges Girard I-80 speed camera tickets
A Cleveland law firm is looking for what it says are hundreds if not thousands of drivers who may have been improperly ticketed to join a lawsuit against the city of Girard.
A federal class action lawsuit has been filed against the City of Girard in protest of speed camera tickets received on Interstate 80.
Speed camera tickets in Girard have always been a source of controversy.
According to a Cleveland law firm it's suspected hundreds if not thousands of people wrongly received tickets for driving faster than 55 along I-80 in Girard between December 7th, 2017 and January 7th of 2018.
Attorney Marc Dann with Dann Law in Cleveland says, "It's a little confusing. My understanding is that when the construction was completed on I-80 the speed limit was restored back to 65 miles an hour. Apparently one sign was left on the road saying that the speed limit was 55 in that zone."
It was on that basis that Girard issued the speeding tickets, but Attorney Dann says that was not the correct speed.
He says the city refuses to reimburse drivers who dispute the tickets.
"The other thing we just learned this morning and we're interested in talking to people about is that some of these tickets have been referred to collection agencies. If a collection agency is trying to collect a debt that somebody doesn't actually owe then they may have claims against the collection agency as well," Attorney Dann said.
In response Girard's Mayor James Melfi says what's ironic is who filed this federal class action lawsuit.
"Attorney Marc Dann used to represent the citizens of this community first as a state senator and then as the attorney general. So it will be interesting to see him on the other side. Maybe he can find his way to Girard. Because I really don't remember the times he was here when he served the citizens of our city," Mayor Melfi said.
The speeding tickets in this case range from $104 to $179 and Mayor Melfi says they are used to make the streets safer and generate revenue.
Since August of 2016 Girard has collected $2-Million and that money has been used to buy ten new polilce cruisers and pave $750,000 in streets along with other projects. And as far as safety.
"422 is now a street you can pull out on from a side street, that wasn't the case before," according to Melfi.
Attorney Dann says, "The way class action lawsuits work is that everybody that had a ticket during that time frame is automatically a member of the class. So if the class gets certified people don't actually have to sign up. In fact, the only people that might want to pay attention are those who have damages out of the ordinary and you think you might want to bring your own lawsuit. So there's no need to call necessarily. There's no need to sig up anywhere. But just pay attention to the case as it goes forward. Girard will have to notify all the people who were issued tickets in that time frame and give them an opportunity to make a claim."
But Attorney Dann would like to hear from anyone who has been contacted by a collection agency because those could end up being seperate claims.
A Canfield couple and a Stark County woman are already part of the lawsuit, claiming they received civil fines ranging from $104 to $179 after being ticketed for driving between 60 and 75 mph on I-80 during the period.
The lawsuit, which asks for a trial by jury, asks the court to invalidate the tickets as well as award attorney fees unspecified actual and punitive damages.
The city has not yet answered the suit which was filed last week.
This isn't the first time speed cams have been challenged in Girard.
In 2010 Girard settled a class action suit filed after the city used an unmanned speed camera to collect fines.
Since then the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that cities and townships are permitted under law to use traffic cameras without a law enforcement officer present to witness the violation.
Ohio lawmakers are considering a bill that would cut state funding to Ohio communities using traffic cameras to issue tickets and collect fines.
The Dann Law civil suit may be seen here.