A manufacturer of a breath analyzer aimed at combating drunken driving is suing the state of Minnesota, alleging breach of contract and "arbitrary and capricious" conduct.
Guardian Interlock Systems filed suit Thursday in Ramsey County District Court against the Minnesota Department of Public Safety and Driver and Vehicle Services (DVS).
The state decertified Guardian Interlock in October, requiring the company to remove all of its devices from vehicles in Minnesota by the end of this year and preventing it from installing new ones.
Guardian Interlock alleges in its suit that the state unfairly decertified the company by enforcing new, arbitrary performance criteria this year that were not outlined in its contract. The contract, which extends through June 2016, allowed the company to work in Minnesota.
Now it is seeking unspecified monetary damages and a temporary restraining order to allow it to continue doing business in the state.
Jack Perry, an attorney for Guardian Interlock, said the state's decertification has damaged the company's profits and reputation since it must share such developments with regulators in other states. Guardian Interlock operates in 26 states, and has contracted with Minnesota since 2011.
"It is illegal and a breach of their contract and arbitrary and capricious for them to now decertify us based on a different standard than they asked us in writing to comply with," Perry said. "We believe we are entitled to a lot of money."
Bruce Gordon, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, which encompasses DVS, said he could not comment on pending litigation.
Guardian Interlock manufactures an interlock device that attaches to the ignition system of a vehicle. A driver under scrutiny for a drunken-driving offense must blow into the device's mouthpiece and register an acceptable blood alcohol reading before the vehicle will start. Individual drivers pay the company for use of the device.
The device also photographs the driver to ensure that they aren't tricking the system.
The suit says that in July, the state decided that Guardian Interlock could do business in Minnesota only if it ensured that at least 90 percent of the photos taken by the devices would be recorded.
Guardian Interlock said that it looked at hardware and software issues that could have led to some photos not being recorded and that it was able to meet the state's criteria and October compliance deadline. However, the suit alleges, the state then said that the recording threshold applied to a smaller subset of data collected by the devices.
Perry said that change — from all data to a smaller subset of data — resulted in an increase in missing data from about 7 to 8 percent to 12 to 13 percent. The recording threshold is not written in the contract, Perry said, and is an arbitrary number that Guardian Interlock nevertheless worked to meet.
According to the suit, the company had 1,260 devices in Minnesota in January, and 1,365 by July. It wasn't immediately clear how many devices are currently deployed in the state.