$100,000 in parking tickets: Playing the blame game in Chicago

policeman holding ticketDid Chicago cops keep writing parking tickets on a car for three years totaling $100,000? And why didn’t they just tow it after 30 days, like they should?

To answer the first question, yes they did. And to the second question, cops say the car was moved during that time and not left in the same place, so it wasn’t “abandoned,” as the owner claims.

It gets more complicated than that, however, and there’s an object lesson in there as well.

It seems that the owner of the car, one Jennifer Fitzgerald, says she sold the older Chevrolet Monte Carlo to her then-boyfriend Brandon Preveau for $600. She also claims she tried to transfer the title, and though she still legally owned the car, Preveau had paid for insurance and license plates.

Fitzgerald says she didn’t have access to the O’Hare Airport employee lot where it was parked–Parveau is an airline employee–and so wasn’t able to do anything about it.

Parveau’s lawyer says tough noogies: “The title was never in his name and the license plates were never in his name either.”

A spokesman for the city defends the cops: “A stack of tickets was not accruing [sic] on the vehicle.”

Fitzgerald and her lawyer declined to talk with Fox News, saying the lawsuit should speak for itself.

We suggest that there are lessons to be learned. One is that when you sell a car, change the title. Parveau may in the end be responsible for the tickets. The failure to transfer the title may be secondary to other acts of ownership, including giving money to Fitzgerald in exchange for the car, plus paying ownership expenses including license and insurance. But as they say, the job’s not finished until the paperwork is done. Fitzgerald wouldn’t be involved if Parveau held the title.

The second is not to ignore unpaid parking ticket notices. Certainly someone was getting notices of penalties for unpaid parking tickets, and because the title was still in Fitzgerald’s name, they were most likely going to her address. If a stack of tickets were accumulating under the car’s windshield wipers.

All in all, it sounds like a case for Judge Judy, with Fitzgerald’s claim not so much against the City of Chicago as Parveau. The moral of the story remains, however, that in the sale of a car, exchange the cash and transfer the title before the other party drives away. There’s no need to pay lawyers to unravel anything the buyer does while the title is still in your name, whether  it’s $100,000 in parking tickets, or worse.

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John is a veteran auto writer, first published in Custom Rodder magazine in 1980. Since then, he has been published in all the big car magazines, including Car and Driver, Road & Track, Motor Trend, Auto Week, Automobile, plus a variety of others, including but certainly not limited to Automobile Quarterly, Collectible Automobile, and Special Interest Automobiles. John’s work has also been featured in a number of consumer and general interest magazines such as Consumers Digest, Popular Science and others. John has written four books, including a history of the Mazda RX-7 (selling for more out-of-print than it did new), buyers’ guides for Mazda, Datsun/Nissan and Volvo cars, and is co-author of 365 Cars You Must Drive with Motor Trend editor Matt Stone, and his work has been translated into Italian, Estonian, Portuguese, Russian, and Bulgarian. John is recipient of the prestigious Ken Purdy Award for Excellence in Automotive Journalism, awarded by the International Motor Press Association, and the Golden Quill from the Washington Automotive Press Association. John has three adult daughters and has been married for more that four decades to Mary Ann, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania.