The city of Chicago and the vendor to which the city paid
$1.2 billion to install and run Chicago’s street parking meter system have been
hit with a class action lawsuit, alleging the vendor and the city should be made
to pay up for parking tickets wrongly issued to motorists who were actually
legally parked after paying for their parking using the ParkChicago smartphone
On Jan. 27, plaintiff Edward Sanchez filed suit in Cook
County Circuit Court against City Hall and the vendor, identified as Chicago
Parking Meters LLC (CPM), as well as LAZ Parking, the company hired by CPM to
administer its network of parking meters throughout the city.
Sanchez is represented in the action by attorneys Phillip A.
Bock and Jonathan B. Piper, of the firm of Bock, Hatch, Lewis & Oppenheim
LLC, of Chicago.
The lawsuit centered on the rollout of the ParkChicago app
in 2014. Introduced by CPM and LAZ Parking in the aftermath of the signing of CPM’s
$1.2 billion, 75-year lease of the city’s 36,000 metered parking spaces, the app
was promoted as a way of helping busy commuters and others parking on the city’s
streets to quickly and easily pay for parking without having to take the time
to visit the associated curbside parking payment kiosk.
According to the lawsuit, the city and its vendors had
pledged the app could help prevent them from getting parking tickets. While
those who pay for parking at the kiosk must return to their vehicle and put a
receipt on their dashboard to prove they had paid to park, those using the app
were told parking enforcement officers would need only run their license plate
number to see they were legally parked.
The app has been downloaded by “hundreds of thousands” of
users, the lawsuit said, all of whom set up a parking payment account through
ParkChicago, allowing the vendors to deduct payment automatically. The account
is funded through an initial $20 deposit, and the ParkChicago vendors replenish
the account each time a customer’s balance drops below $10.
However, the lawsuit asserts the city and parking vendors
have known since 2014 the system is flawed. For instance, in published reports
about the system, officials have acknowledged the system can take up to 15
minutes to update, meaning some who used the app to pay to park within 15
minutes of a parking enforcement officer’s arrival could receive a ticket.
And in other cases, the lawsuit indicated, parking
enforcement officers may simply not run license plates through the parking
enforcement system, issuing tickets to all who don’t have a receipt displayed
in their cars’ windshields.
In his complaint, Sanchez said he had been issued a ticket
in November 2016 for $65 for allegedly being illegally parked in the 200 block
of N. Franklin Street, even though he had used ParkChicago to pay for parking
for two hours at that location, and was still within his allotted time window.
Sanchez said he has contested the ticket.
However, plaintiffs said they suspect many people have
simply paid the tickets, not wishing to contest the ticket.
The lawsuit has asked the court to expand the action to
include all others who paid for parking using the app, yet have similarly
received improperly issued parking tickets. The complaint does not estimate how
many people this may include.
The lawsuit alleges the city, CPM and LAZ Parking’s actions surrounding
ParkChicago violated Illinois’ consumer fraud law and breach implied warranty
and the city’s and vendors’ fiduciary duty, as keepers of the funds deposited
by ParkChicago’s customers.
The lawsuit asks the court to award unspecified “appropriate
damages,” punitive damages and attorney fees. The plaintiffs have also asked the
court to order the city and parking vendors to “disclose the scope of known
defects” with the ParkChicago system; to stop issuing tickets to those who paid
to park using ParkChicago; and to stop prosecuting parking tickets without
first checking to see if the parking had actually been legally paid using the app.