The MBTA and two of its contractors are poised to settle a lawsuit with T riders who say they were wrongly ticketed for unpaid parking fees at commuter rail stations.
According to documents recently filed in federal court in Boston, all owners of vehicles that were ticketed on or before July 6 for unpaid fees at one of the dozens of commuter rail and rapid transit stations that used honor boxes will be eligible to receive settlement benefits. Most plaintiffs in the class action suit will not receive a direct payout from the MBTA, but will instead have certain tickets forgiven.
Honor boxes were an antiquated system that the T shut down in July, in which customers pushed dollar bills into slots to pay the parking fee, typically $4, court records show.
It was not clear how many people can join the settlement, which is subject to final approval from a judge after a hearing scheduled for March 14, or precisely how much it will cost the T.
A lawyer for the named plaintiffs, Kathleen Leone of Rockland and Richard Meyer of Brockton, could not be reached for comment.
Joe Pesaturo, an MBTA spokesman, said the settlement agreement was reached on Sept. 30 and that letters went out to people who were affected Friday. The only out of pocket expense for the T will be plaintiffs’ attorneys’ legal fees and costs of $148,200 and $1,750 each to the two named plaintiffs, he said.
“The MBTA is pleased that the court has given preliminary approval to the settlement,” Pesaturo said in a statement. “The settlement waives a small number of tickets and forgives fines for the customers with the fewest tickets, while preserving most tickets and fines for the most egregious repeat offenders. While we believe that the plaintiff’s legal claims lacked merit, we were happy to agree to a settlement because our focus has never been on collecting fines.
“Rather, we just want to ensure that our customers pay for parking when they are responsible for doing so. The settlement also allows us to focus on operating our new payment technology, which does not use honor boxes.”
In September 2014, Leone and Meyer sued the MBTA and two contractors, LAZ Parking, which enforced parking violations at the commuter rail lots, and Complus Data Innovations Inc., which collected the past-due fines.
Meyer and Leone alleged in court papers that the T and its contractors engaged in a conspiracy to “coerce money” from people who were wrongly ticketed.
The honor boxes did not provide riders with receipts to prove they paid for parking, and beginning in November 2013, Complus sent “tens of thousands of form collection letters” to riders demanding payment for tickets that were past due, the plaintiffs said.
“The MBTA knew that its Honor Box system was flawed,” the civil complaint said. “Both the MBTA and LAZ Parking are aware of many instances in which drivers claimed to have received tickets despite having paid for parking” and the T now provides a more reliable pay-by-phone system.Nicole Dungca of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.