SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) – With the beginning of the new year: A new toll system is coming to the bridges in the Bay Area. Toll collectors who were removed in the pandemic have disappeared for good. All bridge fees in the Bay Area are now fully electronic, and penalties apply for non-payment of bills.
It’s the same system that has been used on the Golden Gate Bridge since 2013. This means that drivers without a Fastrak account will receive an invoice in the mail. But in the beginning, thousands of motorists claimed they were charged fines before receiving their bills.
This led to a class action lawsuit against FasTrak filed in 2014 alleging that thousands of motorists received reimbursements for fines they did not deserve.
Now, after six long years and a bitter court battle, a surprising decision by the court.
RELATED: Why You Might Be Part of the FasTrak Class Action Lawsuit
The result belied the drama that took place during six years of litigation. Laywers for FasTrak operators and the Bay Area Toll Authority accused class action lawyers of fraud. They tried to discourage the public from participating in the process and to keep a public policy secret about how they enforced toll violations. After six years of litigation, has the court granted full compensation to blind drivers?
In fact, the court awarded a dollar to two people.
The lawsuit began after the Golden Gate Bridge switched to fully electronic tolls in 2013.
Drivers without a FasTrak account should receive a toll invoice in the mail. However, the lawsuit alleged thousands never received their bills, mainly due to address errors. Instead of finding a correct address, the lawsuit states that FasTrak has repeatedly imposed penalties.
“They just destroyed the return shipping (bridge fees) and fined those drivers for not paying the toll,” said class action lawyer Adam Gutride.
“I never received a single message,” said San Rafael plaintiff Michael Saliani. He said he collected more than $ 9,000 in fines before seeing a single bill. Fastrak said he should have known to look for them and inquire since he had crossed several times without paying.
WATCH FasTrak would like to keep the toll guidelines secret
FasTrak said it changed its policy over the years of the lawsuit to prevent multiple penalties for ignorant violators. But it wanted to keep those guidelines a secret, saying motorists could use the information to “play the system” and avoid paying tolls.
The Bay Area Toll Department attempted to keep the public under wraps during the trial and attempted to lock the public out of the courtroom. The attempt failed after 7 On Your Side objected.
“It is worrying that toll booths are taking this view of California drivers,” Gutride said. “They believe the public wants to cheat. They want them.”
The lawsuit sought reimbursements for drivers who never received their bridge fee invoices before FasTrak imposed fines.
In an 81-page ruling, San Francisco Supreme Court Justice Anne-Christine Massullo found little evidence that motorists were denied trial rights.
The court ruled in favor of a Mill Valley couple named in the lawsuit.
In their case, the bridge fee invoice was sent without an address. So they never got it and imposed fines of $ 2,500.
The court ordered FasTrak to hold a hearing.
MORE: FasTrak got the wrong stationery and instead of invoices, sends notifications of toll violations
And it gave them a nominal dollar.
Now that all bridges use electronic tolls, FasTrak has to send bills to millions more drivers.
It has already caused a problem for Khara in Mountain View.
She writes that she was never billed for a one-dollar toll road, and FasTrak fined her $ 25.
She argued with FasTrak for hours before the fee was waived.
Class action lawyer Adam Gutride believes the lawsuit forced FasTrak to treat the public more fairly. “This is a good thing for drivers in California,” he said. “They can’t impose fines when mail is returned and waive up to 75 fines if you call to complain.”
And what about this policy that FasTrak tried to keep secret? FasTrak has stopped imposing penalties when the post office fails to deliver an invoice. If you get a FasTrak injury under the new system, report it to 7 On Your Side.
Check out more stories and videos from Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.
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