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Amanda Reid v. American Traffic Solutions

December 20, 2010

AMANDA REID, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
AMERICAN TRAFFIC SOLUTIONS, INC., DEFENDANT.
MICHAEL C. KUFSKIE,
INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
AMERICAN TRAFFIC SOLUTIONS, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on defendant American Traffic Solutions, Inc.'s ("ATS") motions to dismiss the claims of plaintiffs Amanda Reid (Doc. 25) and Michael C. Kufskie (Case No. 10-cv-269, Doc. 11) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and (7). Reid (Doc. 28) and Kufskie (Case No. 10-cv-269, Doc. 19) have responded to the respective motions, and ATS has replied to those responses (Doc. 29; Case No. 10-cv-269, Doc. 23). With respect to Kufskie's claims, ATS has also submitted supplemental authority as allowed by the Court (Case No. 10-cv-269, Doc. 31).

I. Rule 12(b)(6) Dismissal Standard

When reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all allegations in the complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To avoid dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, a complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). This requirement is satisfied if the complaint (1) describes the claim in sufficient detail to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests and (2) plausibly suggests that the plaintiff has a right to relief above a speculative level. Bell Atl., 550 U.S. at 555; see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009); EEOC v. Concentra Health Servs., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (citing Bell Atl., 550 U.S. at 556).

As a preliminary matter, the defendants' motion to dismiss Kufskie's claims refers to matters outside the pleading. Ordinarily, when such material is presented in connection with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court may not consider the material unless it treats the motion to dismiss as a motion for summary judgment and gives the parties fair warning that it is doing so and an opportunity to respond. However, there is an exception to this general rule where the attached material is an exhibit to the plaintiff's complaint, Tierney v. Vahle, 304 F.3d 734, 738 (7th Cir. 2002), or is a local ordinance of which the Court can take judicial notice, Minch v. City of Chicago, 486 F.3d 294, 200 (7th Cir. 2007), cert. denied, 552 U.S. 1101 (2008). Some of ATS's additional matters fall in to these categories, so the Court will consider them. Other matters submitted by the parties will be disregarded.

II. Facts

The complaint in each member case establishes the following relevant facts for the purpose of the pending motions.

A. Intersection Safety Camera Program

These consolidated cases stem from implementation of the Intersection Safety Camera Program ("ISCP") in two municipalities. Kufskie's claim involves the program of the City of Florissant, Missouri. See Florissant Municipal Code § 315.160. Reid's claim involves the program of St. Louis, Missouri. See St. Louis City Rev. Code Ch. 17.07. The ISCP was designed to enforce regulations requiring vehicles to stop at red traffic lights within the relevant municipalities.

The Florissant ordinance provides that cameras will record vehicles that fail to stop at red lights and, after reviewing a recorded image capturing a violation, a Florissant police officer will complete a violation notice and send it to the owner of the vehicle. Florissant Municipal Code § 315.160.D. The owner of the vehicle is presumed to be the driver when the violation occurred, but the vehicle owner may rebut that presumption. Florissant Municipal Code § 315.160.C.

The Florissant ordinance further provides that when an information or complaint is filed in Municipal Court, the Police Department will issue a summons and serve it on the vehicle owner along with, among other things, a notice that the vehicle owner may submit an affidavit if the vehicle was being operated by someone else at the time of the violation or if the license plate on the offending vehicle was stolen. The prosecutor may then decide to terminate the proceeding. Florissant Municipal Code § 315.160.D.

The St. Louis ordinance also creates a rebuttable presumption that a vehicle owner has violated the traffic code if the vehicle was being used in violation of that code. St. Louis City Rev. Code § 17.07.040. There too, to contest the violation, the owner may submit an affidavit or swear in Court that someone else was driving the car or the license place on the offending car was stolen. The prosecutor may then decide to terminate the proceeding. St. Louis City Rev. Code § 17.07.050.

Florissant and St. Louis contracted with ATS to actually run the ISCP as set forth in their respective municipal codes. ATS maintains data related to the ISCP, provides customer service to answer citizen questions and encourages alleged violators to pay the sums demanded of them. ATS does not disclose that it receives a portion of any sums collected.

B. Kufskie

In early January 2010, Kufskie, a resident of Madison County, Illinois, received a Notice of Violation, issued on December 2, 2009, alleging he failed to stop at a red light on November 24, 2009, in Florissant. The Notice of Violation appeared to come from the Florissant Police Department, bore the name and badge number of a police officer and the signature of a prosecutor, but it was actually mailed by ATS. It also stated that there was probable cause to believe Kufskie had failed to stop at a red light in violation of a Florissant traffic ordinance. The Notice of Violation stated that $100 was due on January 4, 2010, and that the failure to pay the fine by that date would result in a notice to appear in court. It also informed Kufskie of his ability to submit an affidavit that someone else was driving his car at the time of the violation or that the license plate on the offending vehicle was stolen.

When Kufskie's attorney attempted to enter an appearance in Municipal Court to contest the violation, he learned that no information had been filed against Kufskie, despite issuance of the Notice of Violation.

Some time after receiving the Notice of Violation, Kufskie received a Notice to Appear, issued January 6, 2010, stating that $100 was due by March 11, 2010. The Notice to Appear also appeared to come from the Florissant Police Department but was actually mailed by ATS. The Notice to Appear informed Kufskie that if he failed to pay $100 before March 11, 2010, he must appear in Municipal Court on March 11, 2010, and that if he failed to pay or appear, the matter would be referred to a collection agency and that the failure to pay would "result in additional legal action." No summons was ever issued to Kufskie in accordance with Missouri law and no legal proceedings were ever initiated in Municipal Court.

C. Reid

Reid, a resident of Washington County, Illinois, received a Notice of Violation, issued on October 20, 2009, similar to Kufskie's. It alleges she too failed to stop at a red light, but on October 14, 2009 in St. Louis. Reid's Notice of Violation appeared to come from the City of St. Louis, bore the name and badge number of a police officer and the signature of a prosecutor, but it was actually mailed by ATS. It also stated that there was probable cause to believe Reid had failed to stop at a red light in violation of a St. Louis traffic ordinance. The Notice of Violation stated that $100 was due on November 19, 2009, and that the failure to pay the fine by that date or the failure to ...


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