Lawsuit accusing state of tolls overcharge goes forward
August 14, 2014
By Steve Andrews
TALLAHASSEE, FL (WFLA) - A judge in Tallahassee gave the green light Thursday to a lawsuit that claims drivers using Florida toll roads are overcharged.
For years, viewers have contacted 8 On Your Side about problems with electronic tolling: including over-charges or plate misreads.
Plant City trucker John Northrup had his fill of the state over charging him month after month, so he filed a lawsuit.
The Florida Department of Transportation wanted the litigation thrown out. Judge James Hankinson rejected the state's motion to dismiss and ordered Northrup and his attorney to include every expressway authority in Florida in the complaint.
"This is a problem that has been going on for several years and has not been corrected," Northrup attorney Cory Fein said.
Northrup intently watched the court hearing in Tallahassee Thursday.
Much like he intently watches his monthly Sunpass billing statements.
"It's been two years of complete nightmare," Northrup expressed.
John Northrup drives a 5-axle rig. An 8 On Your Side investigation last year found Sunpass charged him for 6, 7, 8 even 9 axles more than 170 times.
"There's something flawed in their system," Northrup insisted.
The Department of Transportation has given Northrup three different explanations about why he is repeatedly over charged.
It even put the three transponders he uses on his rig and personal cars on a special watch list.
"All three transponders have been over charged and I've also had billing for approximately 25 tolls for the Broward County school district applied to my account," Northrup complained.
Northrup is suing FDOT, claiming Sunpass and Toll By Plate use defective equipment.
This litigation isn't just about truckers who stand to lose thousands of dollars, 8 On Your side received several calls from several folks who were charged for vehicles they don't even own.
Gale Segura received bills four times from the state's Toll By Plate program charging her for a silver Toyota with an Alabama plate. The problem is she doesn't own a Toyota.
"I said, can you look at the picture that you sent me and look at the license plate, it's not a black Hummer and it's not even a Florida plate," Segura said.
"There's all reasons why you get a might get a misread or a misidentification. It doesn't happen very often when it does happen when we are aware of it we fix it," FDOT attorney Paul Martin said.
Martin contends there is no perfect electronic tolling system. And that Sunpass and Toll By Plate use the most advanced and effective electronic equipment available.
"There are a lot of people who use the toll roads," Northrup attorney Fein stated."And when it's a few hundred dollars per person it doesn't take much to multiply that up to get numbers into the 10 million dollars plus range."
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