There's a settlement after all in the parking ticket lawsuit filed against the city of Santa Monica, and the plaintiffs, who stand to see some settlement money themselves, said motorists are the big winners in the case.
Plaintiffs Harriet and Stanley Epstein of Santa Monica estimate that as many as 20,000 drivers will get the chance to re-contest parking tickets because the city has violated the California Vehicle Code.
Their suit, which was filed in June of last year, accused the city and the contractor that processes its parking citations, ACS State & Local Solutions Inc., of not explaining why a ticket wouldn't be overturned. It is estimated 18,000 motorists who unsuccessfully contested their citations between 2009 and the the spring of 2012 were not provided reasons why the tickets were upheld.
The Epsteins also contend the city and ACS did not provide as many as 2,500 motorists who protested their tickets in the same time period with decisions rendered by an administrative hearing officer.
The city and its provider, ACS, have agreed to provide those motorists with notice and an opportunity to seek an explanation of their initial review or administrative hearing results. They can then request a new hearing or an appeal to Los Angeles Superior Court. If the parking citation is cancelled following the new procedures, the city will refund the fine, the Epsteins said.
Additionally, the city will pay $65,000 to the Epsteins' attorney and ACS will pay $12,500 to Harriet and Stanley Epstein. The couple has promised to donate a "substantial amount" of their settlement proceeds to the Public Justice Foundation.
In an email, Stanley Epstein said it's "unique in that a city government has agreed to fix mistakes it has made."
"Drivers should be made aware of their rights to a redo," he wrote.
The Santa Monica City Council voted to settle the suit in February, but the Epsteins said the vote was premature. They resumed negotiations, but those fell through in June when the council voted in closed session to end talks, the Epsteins said.
The new agreement was approved Aug. 28.
After a Los Angeles Superior Court judge dismisses the case officially, the city and ACS are required to notify 18,000 motorists by mail of their right to again protest their citations. Then:
- Within 30 days after that notice of the right to protest, motorists can demand a legal response to their original letter.
- Within 60 days after that , the city/ACS must provide a proper response.
- Motorists can appeal to an administrative hearing officer within 21 days after that response has been mailed.
Within 60 days of a judge's dismissal, the city/ACS must send 2,500 motorists copies of their prior decision by the administrative hearing officer previously not provided to them. Those 2,500 people can appeal to Superior Court within 30 days after the mailing of that decision.