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 app.
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.