New Miami says ‘speeders’ need to sue vendor as well to get millions in payment

New Miami is trying to convince the speed camera case judge that the estimated 33,000 speeders need to also sue the village’s third-party vendor if they want to collect the full $3 million they paid for unconstitutional speeding tickets.

Many involved thought the six-year-old case would be heading to the 12th District Court of Appeals after a hearing Friday, but Judge Michael Oster let the attorneys make a few more arguments before he issues his final judgment.

“I’ll at least take a look at some of these cases and take under consideration what’s been argued to me today,” Oster said, indicating he will have his final judgment by July 10.

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Tony Raluy, outside counsel for the village, told Oster if the speeders want to collect the whole $3.6 million — estimated interest included — they need to also sue the third-party vendor, Optotraffic.

“What we’re saying is the way the money flowed, when you trace it, 40 percent was retained by Optotraffic, 60 percent went to the village,” Raluy said. “In an equitable remedy the judgment can’t be more than 60 percent of the amounts that were paid by these motorists. That’s the amount traceable to the village. The motorists aren’t without relief to get all their money back, they would have an equitable claim against Optotraffic for the other 40 percent.”

To that, Oster replied: “As the court already indicated, I’m making the village pay the entire amount.”

Raluy told the judge he hasn’t made a ruling on the record that has the dollar amount owed yet.

“I thought it was pretty clear to all the parties that I had,” Oster said.

Oster issued an order in February 2017, after he decided the village is on the hook for the entire amount, not just the $1.8 million that it collected.

“Any collection or retention of the monies collected under the ordinance was wrongful,” Oster wrote.

In his argument about the speeders needing to sue Optotraffic to be made whole, Raluy noted the speeders’ attorneys, who also sued Elmwood Place over its speed camera program, also sued Optotraffic.

One of the speeders’ attorneys, Josh Engel, told the Journal-News after the hearing they sued the vendor after they settled with Elmwood Place because they didn’t get a 100 percent recovery in the settlement.

Another outstanding issue is how much interest is owed. James Englert, another New Miami attorney noted Oster issued a ruling last fall that set the interest rate at three percent and said it would run from when retired Judge Michael Sage declared the camera program unconstitutional in 2014.

MORE: After years of fighting, judgment on $3.6M New Miami speed camera case coming today

“We think your honor respectfully that it is improper to set the date of 2014 as the time from which judgment can run,” Englert said. “The motions that we filed would indicate the law on this and the law we believe is pretty clear, post judgment interest can run only from a judgment for the payment of money.”

Engel says the interest began accruing when each speeder paid their $95 ticket. He told the Journal-News that’s how he derived the interest amount. Doing it that way rather than a lump sum from a date-specific gets his clients about $80,000 more.

The basis for the Friday hearing was an opportunity for members of the class action to dispute their attorneys’ 33 percent cut of the ticket refunds and interest. No one objected so the four attorneys will get almost $1.2 million.

New Miami has paid its legal team $359,105 so far and that taxpayer-paid bill will continue to grow because New Miami will take the case to the 12th District Court of Appeals once Oster issues his final judgment. Insurance doesn’t cover this type of litigation.

Engel said they will be appealing the judge’s decision to let the village repay the speeders over 10 years. He said he will ask Oster to order the first payment immediately, despite the appeals.

Englert said he’ll ask the judge to “stay” payment until the case runs its appellate course.

Parts of the case have already gone to the 12th District and Ohio Supreme Court.

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