Trials and Litigation

Lawyer victorious in contesting parking-ticket late fee all the way to the state's appeals court

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A lawyer contesting a parking ticket that cost him $150 in late fees took it to the state’s second-highest court, the Court of Appeals of Indiana, and achieved an unprecedented victory, the Indiana Lawyer reported.

James Gilday didn’t get everything he wanted, which included $2,500 in damages and fees from the city of Indianapolis and voiding of the $20 ticket, but he did beat the late fee and received this resounding affirmation from the appellate court:

“As a society that tends to celebrate progress, we hold milestones with a certain reverence. We commemorate the Pilgrims who settled on these shores; we take special note of mankind’s first steps on the moon; and today, we observe that this is the first parking ticket to be successfully appealed to our court,” wrote Judge John G. Baker in an opinion (PDF) with concurrences by his two co-panelists, judges Melissa S. May and Elaine B. Brown.

Police had closed off the entrance to Gilday’s usual parking garage one Saturday in October 2012 and he parked on the street. Gilday wrongly believed that metered parking was free on Saturdays and did not pay. He got a ticket and six days later put it in the mail, before the seven-day deadline.

But the city levied a $150 late fee, saying a ticket is “paid” when the city receives the check, not when it is sent. A lower court granted the city summary judgment. The appeals court found the term “paid” was ambiguous on that point and “ambiguity should accrue to the advantage of the citizen.”

“As an issue of first impression, we hold that payment is made on a parking ticket when the payor deposits the payment in the mail,” Judge Baker wrote. “The issue is too important to allow the city to determine for itself when it believes a payment was made: Any delay on the city’s end could result in a 12,400 percent increase in the fine assessed for a parking violation.”

The appeals court reversed and remanded the judgment concerning the $150 late fee, instructing the lower court to enter summary judgment for Gilday on that count.

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