Trucker's lawsuit will proceed against Florida SunPass

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | 8/18/2014

A Florida trucker who claims SunPass overcharged him for tolls will get his day in court despite an attempt by the Florida Department of Transportation to get the lawsuit dismissed last week. A circuit judge denied the FDOT motion to dismiss on Thursday, Aug. 14, clearing the way for the lawsuit brought by car-hauler and OOIDA Member John Northrup of Plant City to proceed.

Northrup’s attorney, Cory S. Fein of Houston, Texas, said his client is seeking class-action status on behalf of anyone who has been overcharged by SunPass, the toll-collection agency operated by the Florida DOT.

“We believe that the overcharging on Florida toll roads is pretty pervasive and it has been going on for a long time,” Fein told Land Line Magazine.

“The Florida Department of Transportation claims to be working hard to correct the problems, but we think the problems are continuing and the amount of money from the resulting overcharges is pretty enormous,” Fein said.

In the complaint, Northrup says he was charged $1 or more for a “sixth axle” on more than 100 occasions even though his car hauler is a five-axle vehicle. He also claims that his personal two-axle vehicle has been overcharged and that he routinely talks to others who have found similar issues on their toll bills.

Northrup claims that SunPass’ toll collection hardware and/or software are defective and wants the problems corrected.

SunPass uses transponders and RFID technology to collect tolls. They also use a system known as “toll by plate,” which snaps a photo of a vehicle’s license plate and requires someone in a back office to generate an invoice to send to the vehicle’s owner.

SunPass has worked to correct individual toll bills if customers discover an issue and bring it to the agency’s attention, but the agency will not say how widespread the problem may be.

Fein said the next phase of the case involves discovery that will help determine the scope of the problem.

“Some of these overcharges are $1, $2, $3, and (the agency) probably counts on a trucker not checking through all of his bills, but that’s hundreds and hundreds of dollars,” Fein said.

“It may be a small deal per toll, but overall it’s a huge deal to truck drivers. When you add up all the truck drivers, it’s definitely a huge deal to the state of Florida.”

After denying FDOT’s motion to dismiss the case, Judge James C. Hankinson of Florida’s 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Tallahassee moved to add two more toll agencies – the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority and the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority – to the case as defendants.

Those agencies share some toll-collection technologies with FDOT and SunPass in return for a percentage of the toll proceeds, according to Fein.

“If those other agencies have ended up with money (from this), we’re happy to add them to the case as well,” Fein said.

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