Trucker files lawsuit for overcharging by Florida toll system

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Lawsuit alleges overcharging by Florida SunPass
By David Tanner
Land Line Magazine
March 20, 2014

A Florida car hauler has filed a lawsuit against the Florida Department of Transportation’s toll collection agency, SunPass.

John Northrup, doing business as Angie’s Transportation out of Plant City, Fla., seeks to “recover excessive tolls charged under FDOT’s SunPass system,” according to the lawsuit filed Feb. 21 in the Circuit Court of the Second Judicial Circuit for Leon County, Fla.

In addition to monetary damages, Northrup seeks declaratory and injunctive relief for breach of contract by the named defendants – the Florida Department of Transportation and FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad in his official capacity.

Northrup, an OOIDA member and vice president of Angie’s Transportation, owns and operates a five-axle car hauler. He told Land Line in 2013 that dozens of charges for six, seven, eight and even nine axles have appeared on his SunPass statements.

SunPass customer service has told Northrup that the charges could have resulted from someone tailgating him through a toll booth, but the theories varied depending on who Northrup was talking to.

One representative told him his truck was probably overweight – still not accounting for the axle discrepancy – and another told him the car hauler itself was triggering a possible error.

“FDOT’s equipment is defective and frequently detects more axles than a vehicle actually has, resulting in FDOT overcharging drivers in violation of the (SunPass Customer Agreement) at those toll stations which charge higher tolls to vehicles with more axles,” the plaintiff stated in the lawsuit.

Northrup cites examples of being charged an extra $1 for the “sixth axle” while driving his five-axle vehicle. He believes that thousands, or possibly millions, of customers may be overcharged in some way.

The plaintiff and attorney Stephen Turner of Broad and Cassel of Tallahassee are seeking class-action status for the lawsuit. They say the alleged overcharging is not limited to trucks. 

Northrup’s personal vehicle, which has two axles, has been charged a three-axle rate on multiple occasions according to the lawsuit.

“FDOT has known of these errors for several years and has deliberately refused to correct them,” the lawsuit states. “Notwithstanding FDOT’s knowledge, FDOT continues to overcharge its customers in this same manner.”

The lawsuit would force FDOT to pay refunds and correct whatever is causing the overcharges.

 The lawsuit also challenges FDOT’s policy of refunding only 90 days’ worth of improperly charged fees. Northrup, whose overcharges go back more than a year, believes customers are entitled to recover all improperly charged fees.

A spokeswoman told Land Line in 2013 that SunPass and FDOT treat every complaint on a case-by-case, customer-by-customer basis.

The toll agency has not yet formally responded to the lawsuit.