A Decatur attorney has filed a class-action suit against the city of Stone Mountain alleging it illegally used speed detection devices during a period of three months, that resulted in the unlawful arrests.
The lawsuit, which is seeking $50 million in damages, was filed Aug. 9 by Jennifer Watts. Watts alleges the city “knowingly” stopped drivers even though its speed detection devices were expired.
Additionally, the suit states that the city arrested more than 15 drivers and unlawfully collected more than $100,000 in fines and fees.
“Before I filed the complaint I reached out to the city to see if they wanted to discuss a settlement for the people I’m representing but they never responded,” Watts said.
During the three months that the city was using uncertified speed detection devices, it allegedly issued more than 200 citations that were prosecuted.
“One person I’m representing, spent 67 days in jail,” Watts said. “He was an electrician and he lost his job and everything and has to start over from scratch.”
The suit also names Stone Mountain City Manager Barry Amos, Mayor Patricia Wheeler and Police Chief Chancey Troutman as defendants. Both Amos and Wheeler are being sued as defendants acting in their official capacity as city employees but Troutman is being sued individually as well as in his capacity as chief of police.
“I chose to sue the chief of police because he is the head of the police department that was responsible for recertification or license renewal,” Watts said. “His failure to re-certify the device is the underlying reason for the lawsuit.”
Amos said he couldn’t comment on the pending litigation but that the city had referred the matter to an attorney and will be filing a response to the suit in the next several weeks. Amos said the suit was being assigned a lawyer through the city’s insurance company.
According to the suit, the city was operating its speed detection devices without proper certification from Dec. 29, 2011 until March 27, 2012. Watts said she learned of the city’s “negligence” when one of the plaintiffs in the suit checked the certificate status and found the city was operating the devices illegally and contacted her.
“Despite the certification’s expiration, the City of Stone Mountain continued to prosecute individuals, that resulted in arrests, failure to appear and bench warrants being issued, adjudications, probation violations, loss of real and personal property and other civil liberties and rights violation,” the suit alleges.