Think you’ve been ripped off by E-ZPass?
The court case challenging the legality of the $50 fine imposed by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority for E-ZPass violations that sometimes amount to less than a dollar, has not been resolved yet but things could soon move forward.
Matthew Faranda-Diedrich, a partner at Royer Cooper Cohen Braunfeld, the Philadelphia law firm heading up the federal class-action lawsuit, said because a state regulation is being challenged a state court has to first determine whether the rule is illegal or unconstitutional.
The appellate division of state Superior Court has referred the case to a judge sitting in New Brunswick for review. That judge is still gathering information pertaining to whether the $50 fee is illegal.
“That’s a pretty significant moment because a lot of times the courts will defer to the governmental agencies,” Faranda-Diedrich said. “Here, the appellate division did not and they appointed a trial court judge in Middlesex County to actually gather those facts and build that record.”
“Once we’re hopefully successful in the state court matter, we’ll then have the ability to really kick-start the class action and make it move forward,” he added. “We’re getting close to the finish line here and hopefully we’ll be in a position to have a final hearing sometime this spring.”
Faranda-Diedrich said he’s already reviewed hundreds of cases involving Garden State residents who have been “victimized” by the E-ZPass violation fine but they are still gathering more names to add to the class action suit.
He noted other states like New York have put in place a toll-payer advocate but in New Jersey “there is no such advocate for the Turnpike and the Parkway, and so really we’ve taken up that mantle.”
The federal class action lawsuit that’s been put on hold claims that the $50 fine violates the 8th Amendment, which prohibits excessive fines.
The Turnpike Authority doubled the fine to $50 nine years ago, insisting the increase was necessary to keep up with rising violation processing costs.
The lawsuit says that if the cost of the Turnpike Authority’s violation-processing contract was divided by the number of violations they collected in a year, the amount of the fine should be just $18.37. And if the cost were to be divided by all 10 million annual violations, including those who never pay, the fine would be $3.41.
Faranda-Diedrich said to inquire about being added to the federal class action suit you may call 215-839-1000 or email intake specialist Randi Fair at email@example.com
Faranda-Diedrich said that if the court rules the violation money must be refunded, drivers who are not part of the federal or state lawsuits would not have to do anything to get a refund.
“Hopefully, all of these individuals will have their day in court,” he said.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com
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