Chicago City Hall has asked a Cook County judge to toss a class action lawsuit which alleged the city has wrongly issued parking tickets to motorists who had actually paid to park using the ParkChicago smartphone app, as the city says the man who brought the lawsuit actually had never been made to pay an improperly issued parking ticket.
In a motion to dismiss filed last month, lawyers for the city asserted plaintiff Edward Sanchez should not be allowed to continue with his legal action, as an administrative law judge determined in January – two days before he filed his lawsuit - that he shouldn’t be made to pay a $65 parking ticket he had been issued by mistake.
Any further action in this case, the city lawyers said, would amount to allowing Sanchez’s legal team to conduct a “fishing expedition,” poring over city records in search of potential new clients, or at least a plaintiff to replace Sanchez and rescue the lawsuit.
Sanchez, represented by attorneys Phillip A. Bock and Jonathan B. Piper, of the firm of Bock, Hatch, Lewis & Oppenheim LLC, of Chicago, had filed his putative class action lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court on Jan. 27 against the city and vendor 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.
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 to park at the kiosk must return to their vehicle and place 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 since been downloaded by hundreds of thousands of users, who agreed to fund their parking account through an initial $20 deposit, and to allow the ParkChicago vendors to replenish the account each time a customer’s balance drops below $10.
However, in the years since the rollout, the lawsuit has asserted flaws in the system could allow those who pay using the app to still receive parking tickets, particularly if a parking enforcement officer arrives within 15 minutes of the user submitting payment, or if the parking enforcement officer doesn’t run a user’s license plate to determine if they had paid.
In his complaint, Sanchez asserted he was issued a ticket in November 2016, even though had had paid using the app. Sanchez said he contested the ticket.
But Sanchez’s complaint potentially untold number of other ParkChicago users had simply paid the tickets, rather than take the time and incur the potential expense to challenge the tickets.
The lawsuit alleged the city, CPM and LAZ Parking’s actions surrounding ParkChicago broke consumer fraud law, and breached implied warranty and the defendants’ fiduciary duty, as keepers of the funds deposited by ParkChicago users.
The lawsuit asked the court to award “appropriate damages,” plus punitive damages and attorney fees.
The plaintiffs have also asked the court to allow them the chance to review city documents related to ParkChicago and parking tickets issued to users.
But the city has asked the court to instead refuse to pull the suit to the curb, asserting Sanchez had never actually been harmed by the parking ticket he received, which was dismissed by the city on Jan. 25.
And the city also asked the court to block Sanchez’s team’s request for “accounting,” specifically to learn “all amounts paid by users of the ParkChicago application and the dates and times of the alleged violations…”
“This request appears to be nothing more than a premature attempt to locate additional members of the purported class, perhaps because Plaintiff recognizes he does not have standing to bring this action,” the city said in a memorandum accompanying its dismissal motion.
“… Plaintiff’s fishing expedition to locate additional potential class members should not be permitted under the guise of an equitable accounting that does not apply to Plaintiff’s limited allegations against the City.”
City Hall is represented in the action by its own corporation counsel from the city’s Department of Law, including attorneys Edward N. Siskel, John L. Hendricks, Jennifer Zlotow, David M. Baron and Tara Kennedy.