How many years is too long to leave an abandoned vehicle in a parking lot un-towed? “Did you say years?” Yes, years. As in two-and-a-half, which is how long a car registered to Chicagoan Jennifer Fitzgerald sat in an O’Hare Airport parking lot, accumulating a mountain of 678 parking tickets before the city finally dragged it away. The crazy six-figure tab: more than $106,000.
Fitzgerald’s parking ticket haul set a new city record, reports DNAinfo Chicago, and it seemed the unemployed single mother was on the hook for the full amount: when she turned to legal counsel to contest the tickets, the city wouldn’t budge. But in a lawsuit filed by Fitzgerald’s attorney, Robin Omahana, he claimed there was more to the tale than one person’s negligence.
The lawsuit alleged that Fitzgerald’s ex-boyfriend, Brandon Preveau, abandoned the Chevrolet Monte Carlo registered in her name at O’Hare International Airport in 2009. That alone might not have swayed the city, because registration entails responsibility, but the lawsuit added that Preveau had purchased the car from Fitzgerald’s uncle in 2008 for $600, then — unbeknownst to Fitzgerald — registered the car in her name. That, the lawsuit argued, meant that Preveau should be responsible for the six-figure total.
Omahana also raised the question of municipal culpability: Should the city have waited two-and-a-half years to tow the Chevy? Omahana argued the city flouted municipal code, says DNAInfo Chicago, and that “only a fraction of the tickets issued were written legitimately.” While the lawsuit was dismissed in April this year, the judge allowed Omahana to file an amended complaint, and Omahana says the publicity generated during the process is what brought the city to the negotiating table.
“They had a little egg on their face with writing so many tickets on one car,” he said.
The city had made offers to Fitzgerald after the lawsuit was filed, at one point dropping the amount to just $2,500, but with no money to make the downpayment, Fitzgerald refused. Thus the final settlement, reached a little over a week ago for $4,470, roped in the ex-boyfriend, Preveau, who agreed to pony up the $1,600 downpayment, after which Fitzgerald will pay $78 a month for three years to cover the remainder.
“She’s very grateful it’s all over,” Omahana told DNAInfo Chicago. “She’s pleased we got the city down to just 4 percent of their total claim.”