An abandoned car in Chicago worth an estimated $600 has been issued more than $100,000 in parking tickets over the past three years.
Jennifer Fitzgerald, 31, is currently stuck with the bill but says the 1999 Chevy Monte Carlo actually belongs to an ex-boyfriend who registered the car in her name without her knowledge or consent.
The Expired Meter reports that from May 23, 2009, through April 30, 2012, the Chicago Department of Finance (DOF) issued 678 tickets against the car, totaling $105,761.80 and setting a Chicago record both for the total number and amount of parking fines issued.
In fact, it blew past the previous record holder, which was $65,000 from approximately 400 violations.
But Fitzgerald says she doesn't owe the city a dime and has filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court against the city of Chicago, United Airlines and the ex-boyfriend.
Fitzgerald has two main arguments in her case. First, she says her ex-boyfriend, Brandon Preveau, is the actual owner of the car, having purchased it from her uncle for $600 in 2008, according to Courthouse News. In fact, Preveau paid for the car's title, registration and insurance, but it was nonetheless registered in Fitzgerald's name.
"Brandon used his 2007 income tax refund to pay Patrick $600 for the automobile," reads Fitzgerald's complaint. "For reasons not recalled by Patrick, however, Patrick signed the title to the automobile over to Jennifer."
Second, Fitzgerald's attorney is arguing that the city should have simply towed the vehicle after 30 days from O'Hare Airport, where it was parked and where Preveau worked at the time.
According to Fitzgerald's complaint, "On or before November 17, 2009, Brandon drove the automobile into the parking lot and never drove it out again."
And as the Expired Meter reports, Chicago law does specify that an abandoned vehicle is to be towed 30 days after being illegally parked: "Any vehicle parked in violation of this section shall be subjected to an immediate tow and removal to city vehicle pound or authorized garage," the law reads.
So far, Fitzgerald; Preveau; Fitzgerald's pro bono attorney, Robin Omahana; and the DOF have all declined to officially comment on the case.
In the meantime, Fitzgerald, who is unemployed and a single mother, has also had to deal with her driver's license being suspended while she pursues her case.
"If a vehicle is in a lot for more than 30 days and Standard Parking was not notified, then the company will try to contact the owner to find out his plans to get the vehicle," Department of Aviation spokesman Karen Pride told the Meter. "If Standard cannot contact the owner, then the vehicle is towed to Lot F, where it might remain for 30 to 90 days, in case the owner comes back for it. After that period, the vehicle is towed to the city impound lot as abandoned."