Drivers in Ohio River bridges lawsuit reach preliminary settlement

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The plaintiffs in the Ohio River toll bridges billing dispute are asking a federal court to approve a $2.5 million settlement they have reached with Gila, LLC, a subcontractor hired to help with the invoicing and collections operation.

A motion for preliminary approval filed in February outlines the terms of a proposed class settlement with Gila only in Monique Outzen, et al., Kapsch Trafficcom USA, Inc. and Gila, LLC, 1:20-cv-01286.  The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana issued a preliminary approval order and set a hearing date for June 22 to determine whether a final approval order should be entered.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs and Gila did not respond to a request for comment by IL deadline.

The proposed settlement would cover two groups of drivers who did not have a transponder or a registered account when they traveled across either the Lincoln, Kennedy or Lewis and Clark bridges that connect Clark County to Louisville, Kentucky. Gila is the subcontractor of Kapsch Trafficcom, which operates the Riverlink system that collects the tolls for the three tolled bridges.

The Late Invoice Class Members are those drivers who paid $5 fees for failure to timely pay a first toll invoice notice. Included in that group are the Missing Invoice Subclass Members who were assessed fees for failing to pay a toll notice that allegedly was not printed and mailed.

Under the terms of the proposed settlement, Gila will establish a $2.5 million common fund to provide cash payments to the Missing Invoice Settlement Subclass Members. Also, the subcontractor will prepare and submit for approval a “Change Control Form” that would shift the due date on the first toll invoice from 30 days to 38 days.

Further, Gila will assign to the Late Invoice and Missing Invoice members all of its claims against Kapsch and non-parties such as state entities.

The proposed settlement is also asking the court for approval to take attorney fees and litigation costs from the settlement fund. This includes $92,000 for litigation costs, $199,000 for additional expenses and settlement administration expenses as well as plaintiffs’ attorney fee equal to one-third of the settlement fund or $833,333.33. In addition, the named plaintiffs would receive $12,500 each for their representation of the settlement class and subclass against Gila.

According to the motion for preliminary approval, the plaintiffs and Gila reached their agreement after a settlement conference was conducted by the magistrate judge in 2019 followed by several day-long mediations over the course of several months in 2021. Also, additional settlement negotiations were held before and after the court denied the plaintiffs’ amended motion for class certification in September 2021.

“The plan for distributing relief is straightforward,” the motion states. “There appears to be no real dispute about who is a member of the Settlement Class and Settlement Subclass or the calculation of each Missing Invoice Settlement Subclass Member’s recovery. Both are determined using objective facts about whether payment of a $5 fee was paid by the Member as well as whether Gila’s records include confirmation that the 1st Toll Notice was printed and mailed to the Member prior to the assessment of the $5 fee.”

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