The $50 fee for toll violators is fair, and a judge rules in the case arguing it should be lower
After a judge's opinion, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority's $50 administrative fee was reinstated.
As a result of a 2017 lawsuit filed by two drivers, Supreme Court Judge Alberto Rivas, seated in Middlesex County, sided with the New Jersey Turnpike Authority in an opinion that a $50 administrative fee charged to toll violators was not excessive.
Rivas wrote in an opinion that the $50 fee is neither arbitrary or capricious and fairly represents the cost incurred by the NJTA in processing and collecting a toll violation.
Two out-of-state drivers filed a class action suit in 2017 regarding the violation fees, arguing that the Turnpike Authority, which runs the Garden State Parkway, has overcharged drivers since the fee is due to the costs to process the violation.
The company claimed that nearly 4 million drivers had been overcharged $185.6 million over six years, and that they were seeking a rollback of the fee, refunds to drivers who have been overpaid, and a do-over of the 2011 legal process that increased the fees from $25 to $50.
Rivas based his decision on the testimony of two experts who considered what expenses an administrative fee should and should not cover.
Rivas wrote that the $50 administrative fee is neither a fine nor an unauthorized profit. The efforts of the NJTA to collect a toll without assessing an administrative fee were credibly submitted to the hearing.
Officials from the Turnpike Authority said they were very pleased, but not surprised by the judge's decision.
We knew that we had a strong case, and we were optimistic about what we would do, said Tom Feeney, an authority spokesperson.
Drivers who do not commit toll violations should not have to pay higher tolls, according to the court, he said.
The suit was remanded to Middlesex County by.
The case has been canceled until appellate court judges receive a final decision, according to Attorney Matthew Faranda-Diedrich, who represented the drivers.
We are obviously disappointed with this result and disagree with the conclusions made in the Judge's report, but the case is far from over, he said. The Appellate Division has been involved in this matter for the past several years. They will be reviewing the judge's report and they will be making the ultimate decision on whether the $50 regulation is valid or invalid.
Plaintiffs James Long and Homer Walker have filed an appeal against federal court, and the action has been put on hold pending the state court's review.
We will have the opportunity to discuss facts and legislation with the Appellate Division, which we believe will significantly impact the outcome of the trial, and hopefully benefit millions of New Jersey motorists, said Faranda-Diedrich.
Stephen Turner, a toll road expert who has worked for a number of toll agencies, is among the judges in his decision.
The process to collect payment from a toll violator begins before a violation notification has been issued, because the Authority or its contractor checks whether the vehicle's owner has a valid E-ZPass account. If it does, the person is billed only for the toll.
Drivers with E-ZPass accounts hampered reading of a transponder and paying a toll, angered by this problem.
Turner testified that motor vehicle records are checked again to determine if there is an E-ZPass account connected to the motor vehicle's owner. The toll is charged to that account if an E-ZPass account is found. That work is done by Authority employees
Turner calculated the cost per violation to $77.05.
Faranda-Diedrich said that a violation can be made after the initial APR notification is sent and that those costs should not be considered as part of the fee.
According to the Turnpikes analysis, a toll violation occurs when a vehicle crosses a toll lane and the toll is not collected. Intent is irrelevant to this definition of a toll violation, he wrote.
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Larry Higgs may be reached at.