Traffic Ticket Surcharges Drive New Yorker to File Class Action Lawsuit
When New Yorker Bernard Weitz was fined $115 for parking too close to a fire hydrant, he paid the fine rather than contest it. But when he noticed his bill included a $10 surcharge, he was furious. Last month, Weitz filed a $5oo million class action lawsuit against the city claiming the penalties are illegal, and also seeking injunctive relief.
According to the complaint, Weitz paid his traffic fine in full, plus a $2 credit card fee, for a total of $127, on Nov. 10. He cited New York Vehicle and Traffic Law § 237(2), and said that the additional fees pushed his fine over the legal limit. Vehicle and Traffic Law § 237(2) states that “(i) in a city with a population of one million or more, violations committed in spaces where stopping or standing is prohibited for which monetary penalties shall not exceed one hundred dollars…..”
According to Chicago lawyer JillRose Quinn, there are many reasons citizens challenge traffic tickets, not least of which is to prevent their insurance rates from increasing. “When clients come to me with traffic violations, it is typically their third ticket and they are concerned about getting a conviction that will suspend their license.” She notes that even if a trial is lost, the loss can’t be used against a person for insurance purposes whereas a guilty plea or verdict can.
In the New York case, Quinn has one suggestion for plaintiff Weitz. “Pay the parking ticket and walk away. (Mr. Weitz) may feel vindicated somehow by filing a class action but he is unlikely to get much out of it. Sometimes things are just unfair like a parking ticket but that doesn’t mean the law has redress available to you.”
Quinn has met a number of clients intent on receiving personal justice from the legal system. “I have to tell them that personal justice is not what the legal system metes out. Then I tell them that when I get frustrated I go for a run and that might be more productive for them than filing a lawsuit,” she says.