December 9, 2022

On December 7, a US District Court in the Central District of California granted summary judgment to defendants Skidata and Sentry Control Systems and dismissed all claims brought against these companies in a privacy class action.  Brought by plaintiffs, the suit alleged that the companies, which provide parking control access systems at prominent Southern California malls, improperly captured license plate information through Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) technology through ALPR technology and equipment sold, installed, and serviced by Skidata and Sentry.  Willkie represents Skidata and Sentry in the suit. 
The decision is notable as a first-of-its-kind interpretation and application of the California ALPR statute and other California statutes and common law tort doctrines to alleged collection and use of license plate technology.  The ALPR technology and equipment at issue is in common usage in parking lots throughout Southern California (and the shopping malls in the case include what are widely considered the biggest malls in the Los Angeles area).  Additionally, the damages become substantial very quickly given plaintiffs’ attempt to assert claims for a class consisting of all individuals who entered the parking lots at the various malls over a 4-year period and the ALPR statute’s damages provision of $2,500 per infraction – damages that could have run into the billions and been catastrophic for Skidata and Sentry had plaintiffs’ claims been successful.
The case was originally brought by plaintiffs in Los Angeles Superior Court against shopping mall owners and companies providing parking control access systems at Southern California malls relating to the alleged improper collection, transmission, and use of license plate information by Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) technology.  Defendants include Skidata, Sentry, and Park Assist (all of which sell, install, and service ALPR systems at shopping malls), and Westfield, Taubman, Brookfield, and Caruso (companies which own some of the largest shopping malls in Southern California where ALPR technology is in use).  The case was removed to United States District Court for the Central District of California, and Plaintiffs’ remand motion denied.
The plaintiffs claimed that ALPR systems automatically and without sufficient notice capture license plate information upon entry and exit from the shopping mall parking lots; the collected license plate information can be used to track location of the individuals; and the defendants have agreements to share, sell, and use the license plate information in marketing, advertising, and other commercial activities.  A key issue also included whether plaintiffs suing under California’s ALPR statute need to show “harm” to be able to recover.  In his ruling, the judge said the plaintiffs failed to cite as evidence “a genuine issue of fact showing that any defendant . . . violated the ALPR statute or caused plaintiffs actual harm.”  Additionally, the judge found that the Skidata and Sentry were not subject to the ALPR statute despite it being their equipment in use at the various malls given that Skidata and Sentry were neither operators nor end users of the ALPR systems.
The Willkie team was led by partner Eric Bakewell and included associates Hannah McMeans, Benita Yu, and Thomas Obersteiner. 

Related Practice Areas