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Published February 25 2010

114 class members won’t get settlement in Fargo traffic fines case

A federal judge said Wednesday 114 class members in a lawsuit against Fargo won’t receive settlement dollars they could have been entitled to.

Attorneys in the case met by telephone conference to discuss outlying issues in the closed lawsuit – specifically the class members whose position was unclear on participation and desire to receive money.

Stephanie Sauby of West Fargo and James Burns of Fargo initiated the class-action lawsuit against Fargo three years ago, arguing that the city’s traffic fines illegally exceeded those allowed by state law.

Under the approved settlement, the city admitted no wrongdoing but paid more than $1 million to at least 13,900 people who submitted qualified claims.

The 114 individuals discussed Wednesday were among 304 class members who returned claim forms that were not clear about the individuals’ participation in the lawsuit.

Fargo sent letters asking the individuals to clarify their position, but 114 didn’t respond.

Timothy Purdon, the class members’ attorney, requested Wednesday that another letter be sent to the majority of the remaining individuals, giving them one more chance to clarify their position and recoup funds under the settlement.

However, District Judge Ralph R. Erickson agreed with Fargo’s attorneys that it would be a waste of time and resources to continue seeking a response.

“It’s time for this case to come to a close,” Erickson said. “Spending more money on this case would not be fruitful.”

“At some point, if you can’t follow the instructions, you sometimes lose,” he added.

By default, the individuals whose position isn’t clear will be bound by the terms of the settlement but will not receive money, Erickson ordered.

This prevents the 114 class members from pursuing a separate lawsuit against the city.

Class members received on average about $75 under the settlement. However, specific payments varied greatly among individuals, the attorneys said.

Fargo should finish sending all payments to participating and qualifying class members no later than March 15.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541