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Chicago's red light camera lawsuit could affect 'hundreds of thousands' of ticketed drivers

Written by
Clayton Guse

Last month, a ruling out of the Cook County Circuit Court denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit surrounding Chicago's controversial red light and speed camera programs. The suit claims that the city violated its own municipal code by failing to give violators appropriate notice before issuing late fees and other penalties. It's the first suit in Chicago that has challenged the camera tickets that hasn't been dismissed in court, and now the plaintiffs' attorney is moving forward in a big way.

Jacie Zolna of Myron M. Cherry & Associates, who is representing three initial plaintiffs in the case, is now looking to get the case certified as a class action lawsuit. Zolna said that his firm has already applied for class certification, and that he's hoping for the request to be approved within the next few months. After that, it's a matter of discovering exactly how many people have been pinged with unwarranted fines and tickets since Chicago's camera programs first launched in 2003. 

"The practices at issue won't affect every single [red light and speed camera] ticket issued by the city," said Zolna. "I know it's going to be tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people... it's going to be extremely large and it's going to impact a big portion of all the tickets that were issued."

If you think that you were unjustly ticketed by a red light or speed camera, you don't really have to do anything. During litigation, the law firm will get information from the city about the identities of the people that are affected, and those people will get a notice telling them about the lawsuit, what their rights are and their options from there, Zolna said. 

But if you've paid off a stack of questionable red light and speed camera tickets, don't bank on getting them refunded in full. The amount that plaintiffs in the class action case will receive depends on how the case gets resolved. The city could settle, or the case could go to judgment. If the latter happens, Zolna says the case could be too big to even collect on. "We have a lot of ideas on how to resolve this thing without bringing financial Armageddon to the city," he said.

The city, however, isn't going to roll over on the case. “The city continues to defend this case vigorously, as we believe that the plaintiffs' claims are legally insufficient," said Law Department spokesperson Bill McCaffrey. "The plaintiffs do not dispute that they violated the law and that they received notices of these violations. It is the city's position that the plaintiffs are not entitled to any recovery, let alone any refunds.”

So, don't hold your breath while you wait for your red light or speed camera ticket to be refunded. This case could drag on for a while, but rest assured that a team of lawyers is hard at work on the behalf of Chicago's motorists. 

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