Lawsuit claims SunPass tolls defective - WFLA News Channel 8

Lawsuit claims SunPass tolls defective

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A Plant City trucker claims tolling equipment on Florida highways is defective and that the state's Department of Transportation continues to overbill him.

John Northrup and his company Angie's Transportation is now suing, claiming that FDOT is inappropriately and illegally billing him and up to seven million other SunPass customers. The lawsuit, filed in Tallahassee by the Houston law firm of Caddell and Chapman and locally by the firm of Broad and Cassell, seeks class action status.

"There's something flawed in their system," Northrup told 8 On Your Side in 2013.

In November, 8 On Your Side reported that Northrup discovered on his SunPass invoices that FDOT repeatedly overbilled him.

FDOT charges drivers by the number of axles on their vehicles. Northrup drives a 5-axle rig. Invoices show that month after month the state charged him for six axles, seven, even eight.

"107 times last year I was billed for six, and 35 times for seven and 21 times for eight, several times for nine," Northrup said.

The lawsuit alleges FDOT similarly overcharges all of its trucking customers and that SunPass tries to limit its users' ability to recover improperly fees to 90 days.

The lawsuit also claims that in January 2014, FDOT's Toll-By-Plate program charged Northrup 25 times for tolls incurred by a vehicle Northrup has never owned, with a tag he has never had.

"It has me very concerned," Gale Segura of Indian Rocks Beach said.

Segura wrote 8 On Your Side to report the Toll-By-Plate program billed her for vehicles she doesn't own 4 times.

"I said, can you look at the picture that you sent me and look at the license plate. It's not a black Hummer and it's not even a Florida license plate. And the guy goes, Oh, my goodness, no, it's a silver Toyota with an Alabama plate," Segura said.

Northrup's lawsuit charges FDOT's tolling system equipment is defective and the state knows it.

Following our report last November about Northrup's overbilling issue, state senator Jeff Brandes (R) St. Petersburg, asked FDOT for an audit.

In January, at a transportation committee hearing about Northrup's situation, Brandes wanted an explanation about the excessive billing.

Diane Gutierrez Scaccetti, executive director and CEO of the Florida Turnpike Enterprise conceded that from time to time Northrup was charged for six or seven axles. She told lawmakers that the problem is sensors mistakenly county low hanging pieces of metal on Northrup's rig, such as his gate, as axles.

"So we need to work with him monthly to make sure that his account is correct," Gutierrez Scaccetti said.

The problem is FDOT had Northrup on a special watch list when many of the charges occurred.

Gutierrez Scaccetti claimed Northrup's vehicle is unique, there is no tolling problem.

Two trucking operations told 8 On Your Side that overbilling occurs every month.

"We have other customers that we have monthly relationships as well, that we talk to and reconcile their account every month. This mostly happens on the commercial side of our program," Gutierrez Scaccetti said.

The lawsuit contends over charging is not unique.

"As long as nobody raises a ruckus, they can over charge," Northrup said.

According to the lawsuit, improper billing costs Northrup hundreds of dollars a year. Multiply that, by the thousands of trucks that use Florida's expressway every day.

"They know what's going on, they've known for a long time what's going on, but yet they fail to do anything to correct it," Northrup said.

Has your SunPass account been overbilled by FDOT? 8 On Your Side Investigator Steve Andrews wants hear from you. Send Steve an email at 8OnYourSide@wfla.com

Related: Read the lawsuit against SunPass

Copyright 2014 WFLA. All rights reserved.


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