NEW ALBANY — A federal judge has denied a motion to include virtually all drivers who have paid tolling fees related to the Ohio River Bridges in litigation pending between three motorists and the companies responsible for collecting tolls on three bridges between Louisville and Southern Indiana.
The case, filed in the U.S. District Court Southern District of Indiana, stems from allegations by three Indiana residents that that Kapsch TrafficCom USA and Gila, Inc., have overcharged or improperly billed or invoiced them for tolls to cross three of the five bridges that span that portion of the Ohio River. It is comprised of two civil actions first filed in trial courts in Marion County.
The first, which was filed by Melissa Barker and transferred to federal court in 2019 —after her attorneys said in the complaint it would likely include “hundreds or even thousands of motorists” — involves allegations of overcharging by the two companies in 2018 and 2017, a year after the electronic tolls began.
The second was filed in a Marion County Superior Court March 2020 by drivers Monique Outzen and Robert Ardaiolo. That case was moved to federal court the following month and later that year consolidated with Barker’s case.
Drivers crossing the three bridges are tolled according to the size of their vehicle and what type of account they have. A person who has a license registered with RiverLink, the tolling company who also has a prepaid account, will pay less than someone who’s billed based on the traffic cameras getting a photo of the license plate and mailing a bill to the driver’s home.
The first notice should have the tolling charges with 30 days to pay them. After that, a second notice is sent including a $5 administrative fee. If that isn’t paid within 30 days a third notice should be sent which includes a $25 fee and after another 30 days, a collection notice is sent with additional fees.
Barker’s complaint includes that she was twice sent second toll notices that included the $5 fees without ever having received the first notices with an opportunity to pay on time.
“These notices were falsely identified as ‘2nd Toll Notices’ when in fact no first toll notice had been provided to plaintiff and the notices were not, in fact, ‘2nd” Toll Notices,’” the complaint reads.
In the complaint filed by Outzen and Ardialo, attorneys also stated that their clients had been wrongly charged the $5 fee. It further states that Kapsch and Gila had not adhered in any situation to the requirement that the due date for tolls be set for 35 days after the invoice was generated. This time period was to allow five days for generation, quality control and review with 30 days for the customer to pay the fees.
But attorneys for Outzen and Ardioalo say that Gila programmed the RiverLink invoicing software to “set due dates for 29 days or less, after the date on which a 1st Toll Notice was generated,” the complaint reads. Because of this, they say that “no user of the RiverLink Toll Bridges has been provided the required period of time to pay a 1st Toll Notice.
“...To make matters worse, defendants routinely did not send motorists the required 1st Toll Notice, Violation Notice or Collection Notice before imposing escalating penalties onto RiverLink users.”
The plaintiffs later filed an amended motion to certify class action including “All individuals and entities who paid administrative fees, violation fees, collections fees, and/or penalties arising from use of the RiverLink Connect Tolling System using unregistered video accounts, and all individuals and entities who paid administrative fees, violation fees, collections fees, and/or penalties for failure to timely pay a Toll Notice that was never printed and mailed by defendant,” it reads.
The motion also requested the judge to determine “As to all individuals and entities who are assessed administrative fees, violation fees, collections fees, and/or penalties arising from their use of the RiverLink Connect Tolling System using Unregistered Video Accounts, whether defendants may lawfully assess administrative fees, violation fees, collections fees, and/or penalties against UVA Customers when defendants (1) set the 1st Toll Notice due date for less than thirty-five (35) days after the date of the notice’s generation; and/or (2) failed to mail the requisite prior notice to the UVA Customer as described in the Business Rules.”
In her order, Chief Judge Tanya Walton Pratt stated that she had denied the amended motion to certify the case as a class suit in part because the plaintiffs’ claims were overly broad, and “includes many members who were not injured, and the named plaintiffs are neither adequate class representatives nor advance claims that are typical of class members.” It also states that just because someone did not receive a first toll notice does not necessarily mean they were injured, “some, for example, paid outside of the pertinent windows and others paid their tolls despite never purportedly receiving a toll notice.”