Lawyer Brings Parking Ticket to Appellate Court and Wins

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on May 16, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

An Indiana lawyer who stayed in the game and brought a parking ticket all the way to Indiana's appeals court won on the issue of when a ticket is "paid". Score one for motorists everywhere.

It's nice to see that at least some within the population do not simply pay parking tickets lying down and are still contesting these things using the old ways rather than apps like Fixed.

Saturday Morning Confusion

Indiana lawyer James Gilday was ticketed Saturday when Indianapolis police closed the entrance to his usual parking garage during the weekend and he parked on the street. He erroneously believed that metered parking was free on Saturday and did not pay time. He was ticketed and placed payment in the mail the day before the seven-day deadline. Do you see where this is going?

More Confusion at the City's End

About a month later, Gilday received a letter from the city telling him that his balance was still unpaid, but Gilday ignored that letter assuming that he'd paid. More letters came and Gilday ignored them still. The letter did not actually state clearly that he was actually being assessed penalties. Gilday failed to appear for a hearing and $150 was entered against him. When Gilday finally got around to addressing his ticket again, he sued for $2,500 in damages, and a vacating of his ticket. This eventually made it to Indiana appellate court.

Vindication of Motorists

The Indiana appeals court noted that this was the first time in the court's history that it had overturned a parking ticket. Get a load of this language by authoring judge John G. Baker:

"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,"

The court found a number of facts that favored Gilday. First, "paid" is an ambiguous term and because of that, the lower court should not have granted summary judgment. If anything, any ambiguity in the law should go to the benefit of the citizen, reasoned Baker and colleagues. Even though the city had defined "paid" as the time when payment is received, one could reasonably argue that "paid" also assumes a more mailbox rule-like meaning.

Thus, the court applied multiple common law concepts of contra proferetem and the mailbox rule.

Not a Complete Victory

Gilday will not get his $2,500 in damages, but he did successfully have the $150 late fee reversed on the issue of ambiguity. He still is on the hook for $20, though.

Too bad the numbers are so small or else Gilday could've expanded his practice into fighting tickets.

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