Nassau County Judge Denies video to lawsuit plaintiff

Agency Found Exempt From Turning Over Traffic-Camera Footage

New York Law Journal

December 8, 2011

An insurance company cannot force a Nassau County traffic agency to turn over recordings from a program that tracks drivers who go through red lights, a state judge has ruled in an apparent case of first impression.

After one of its insured drivers was involved in a June 2011 accident at an intersection using a red-light camera, Travelers Property Casualty Company of America sought a court order that would have required the Nassau County Traffic and Parking Violations Agency to produce the footage. The insurer wanted the recordings because it expected litigation, based on the fact that both drivers said they had a green light.

The traffic agency opposed the insurer's request, saying, among other things, that the recordings were exempt from disclosure under the state's Freedom of Information Law. The agency said the red-light enforcement program was not enacted to aid lawsuits and argued that turning over the video footage would constitute a bad precedent by encouraging other requests.

Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey S. Brown (See Profile) agreed with the agency, observing that when the state authorized Nassau County's program the Legislature amended Public Officers Law §87(2) to exempt the recordings from FOIL disclosure.

Justice Brown observed in Travelers Property Casualty Company of America v. Nassau County Traffic and Parking Violations Agency , 10470-2011, that the Legislature "intended that the information contained on the photographs, microphotographs, videotape or other recorded images obtained from a traffic-control signal photo violation-monitoring system should be excluded from the information generally made available to the public." The judge noted that if the insurance company wanted to see the recordings it could contact the vendor operating the program