• U.S.

Americana: Road to Ruin

1 minute read

It started as nothing more than a $5 speeding ticket, but by the time it was over, Daniel S. Murray, 34, of Billings, Mont., had been hit with history’s most expensive speeding fine. Murray was flagged down for driving 68 miles an hour in a 55-m.p.h. zone on Sept. 3, 1980, and ordered to pay a $5 fine. The incensed motorist not only refused to pay up, he filed a lawsuit asking damages of $1,050,007. It charged Montana Highway Patrol Sergeant Ron Johnson with using unauthorized police powers and other infractions. Murray, an unemployed salesman who likes to do all his own legal work, also filed a series of 100-year liens against the property and financial assets of Johnson and his wife. In retaliation, the Johnsons not only filed a countersuit to remove the liens, but sought damages.

Last week the Montana Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s finding of damages for the Johnsons: $200,000 plus attorney’s fees estimated at $2,100. Serving notice that it would not stand for similar suits, the court said it hoped to “alert those inclined to follow the example of Daniel Murray—they may well be traveling a rocky road.”

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