Asserting legal precedent holds people wrongly receiving parking tickets have no “freedom from administrative inconvenience,” attorneys representing the vendors that operate Chicago’s on-street parking meters have asked the court to again pull to the curb a class action lawsuit alleging problems with the ParkChicago smartphone app results in illegal tickets issued to motorists using their phones to pay for parking.
On Dec. 20, attorneys for Chicago Parking Meters LLC and LAZ Parking Chicago filed a motion in Cook County Circuit Court, requesting a judge dismiss the lawsuit brought by original named plaintiff Edward Sanchez and new plaintiff Jennifer Chui.
Chui was added to the action in November, in an attempt to correct problems identified in the original complaint, filed almost a year ago by attorneys Philip A. Bock and Jonathan B. Piper, of the firm of Bock Hatch Lewis & Oppenheim LLC, of Chicago, initially on behalf of Sanchez and a putative class of additional plaintiffs.
The lawsuit, filed against Chicago Parking Meters and LAZ, centered on the rollout of the ParkChicago app in 2014. Introduced by CPM and LAZ 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 quickly and easily pay for parking without having 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 asserts, flaws in the system have led to many parking tickets issued to app users, 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 they had paid.
In his complaint, Sanchez asserted he was issued a ticket in November 2016, even though he had had paid using the app. Sanchez said he contested the ticket.
The lawsuit asserts many other ParkChicago users had simply paid the tickets, rather than endure the inconvenience of challenging 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.
However, in September, a Cook County judge dismissed Sanchez’s complaint, noting he had never actually paid any fine, as the city determined his ticket had been issued to him because he had failed to input the correct license plate number into the ParkChicago app when he had parked his car.
To remedy the problems with the lawsuit, Chui was added to the complaint, asserting, similarly, the city of Chicago had improperly issued her a ticket when she paid using the app on Jan. 7, 2017. She had used ParkChicago for 2.5 years without prior incident, according to the city’s motion.
However, in its Dec. 20 motion, the city says Chui’s allegations also suffer similar deficiencies, as she also was able to successfully challenge her parking ticket without having to pay a fine, after administrative reviewers determined she had actually paid for the parking and the attendant who wrote the ticket didn’t first check her license plate electronically.
The defendants further argued even the inconvenience of challenging the tickets shouldn’t be enough to allow the lawsuit to go forward, as a federal judge had determined in 2008 in a lawsuit against the Illinois Tollway that the frustration of having to challenge erroneous tickets is just “an unfortunate reality of daily life.”
And the defendants also challenged the plaintiffs assertions the city and its vendors had misled or deceived app users concerning the potential for mistakes or flaws in the system, as the ParkChicago frequently asked questions tab on the app and webpage specifically include instructions on how to challenge parking tickets issued, despite payment.
“Courts routinely dismiss (consumer fraud) claims where, as here, Defendants disclosed the very information that Plaintiffs allege was concealed, or where the purportedly withheld information was available in the public domain,” the motion says.
“The (complaint) contains allegations regarding the app’s FAQs webpage statements regarding how a parking enforcement officer is supposed to determine whether a parker paid via the app and how to use the app to extend parking time,” the motion says. “Yet, plaintiffs do not even claim, let alone plead facts, that either statement is false, or that enforcement officers were supposed to follow some other procedure.
“Indeed, Plaintiffs do not allege that they even reviewed these statements let alone were deceived by them.”
Defendants are represented in the action by attorneys with the firms of Winston & Strawn LLP, of Chicago, and Ulmer & Berne LLP, of Chicago.