Montreal lawyers push for class-action lawsuit against photo radars

Two Montreal lawyers have filed a motion for a class-action lawsuit against six different government bodies, including the Ministry of Transport and the Surete du Quebec, in hopes of having any and all speeding convictions that relied on photo radar evidence to be overturned and those fined paid back in full—plus damages.

 “We are asking the judge in court to take every single ticket, annul it, reimburse every single person every single dollar that they paid, plus court fees included in that ticket," Avi Levy of the traffic law firm TicketAide told CJAD Montreal, “and in our motion we are also asking for some damages.”

The suit that Levy and his partner at TicketAide Jamie Benizri are hoping a judge will approve to proceed will include all drivers fined for speeding in Quebec and convicted, dating back to the first installations of photo radar traffic systems in the province in 2009, according to Benizri.

Late last year, Quebec justice Serge Cimon threw out a $1,160 photo radar ticket being challenged by a woman in court, saying photo radar evidence alone is tantamount to hearsay, with their being no police officer having directly witnessed a speeding infraction.

Levy and Benizri say with the Quebec Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions—which is one of the co-defendants in their proposed class-action suit—deciding not to appeal that decision, it is not only current cases before the courts now on hold that are affected and, but those previously convicted on evidence the courts now view as inadmissible.

While the motion ignores the number of people that would be part of the class in the potential suit, Levy and Benizri estimate there have been over 600,000 convictions for speeding tickets using photo radars as evidence in Quebec since 2009.

The motion outlines what the pair are requesting—should the lawsuit be approved—as repayment and additional damages, with it demanding the defendants be required to pay $197 in repayment for the original ticket and court fees to each person in the class, plus an additional $100 in damages for the trouble and inconvenience of having to take the matter to court.

As the Quebec legal system automatically includes citizens as part of a class-action suit unless they specifically choose to opt-out, if Levy and Benizri’s suit is accepted to be heard by the court and is successful, the payout to those convicted with photo radar would total over $178 million—minus legal fees and each person’s individual contribution to the fund that supported the group’s case, which are $48 and $14 respectively.

The pair admit it will be an long road if they are to succeed.

“Just to give you an idea about the [usual] delays in this kind of a matter, it would not be uncommon to be heard in early 2018,” said Benizri, and that’s just for a judge to decide whether their motion for an actual class-action suit can proceed to trial. “Then we have to go through all the traditional steps of a legal suit.”

 "This is not going to be a fast process, but we are happy to have started the process immediately after the appeal was not granted." he continued.

Theirs is not the first motion filed for a class-action lawsuit against photo radars in the province. Last October, a Quebec City lawyer filed a motion to declare using photo radar systems for evidence is unconstitutional.

A judge will be hearing that request likely in February or March.