The city of Chicago is reviewing the case of a single, unemployed mother saddled with the biggest parking fine in city history after she filed a lawsuit claiming that her ex-boyfriend was to blame for all the tickets.
Jennifer Fitzgerald owes Chicago a whopping $105,000 after a 1999 Chevy Monte Carlo – a used car that was bought for $600 and registered in her name – was parked at O'Hare Airport for three years starting in November 2009. It was parked there by Fitzgerald's ex, Brandon Preveau, according to a civil suit Fitzgerald has filed.
In the suit, filed against Preveau, United Airlines, and the city of Chicago, Fitzgerald contends that she should not be liable for the tickets. According to the court papers, Fitzgerald "was never the owner of the [automobile]… had no control over the [automobile] when the parking tickets were issued… [and] is not responsible for the parking tickets issued on the [automobile]."
Roderick Drew, a spokesman for the city of Chicago, told ABC News today, "The case is being reviewed and we will work with the young lady to come to a fair solution, based on the facts of the case."
Fitzgerald's attorney Robin Omahana told ABC News, "We're sort of throwing her on the mercy of the court."
There is a court date in May, but Omahana said, "We're hopeful that with or without the judge's help we'll be able to resolve it. We put forth the story and we're looking for some help from the court."
The lawyer said he hopes to hear from the city or from the ex-boyfriend.
"I'm happy to listen to them whenever they call me," Omahana said, although so far neither has called.
Drew said it is the city's understanding that the car was parked in the United Airlines' lot at O'Hare Airport. Preveau works for United Airlines.
"The operator of the vehicle was a badged employee for United Airlines and therefore had authorization to park there while working," Drew said. "It is also our understanding that the employee moved this vehicle a number of times in this United lot and that tickets being affixed to the vehicle were periodically removed. Therefore, a stack of tickets was not accruing on the vehicle."
According to the Chicago Department of Aviation, posted signs at the O'Hare lots note that if a vehicle is in a lot for more than 30 days without the lot operators being notified, then the company will attempt to contact the owner, but if the owner cannot be contacted, the vehicle will be towed to another lot before eventually being towed to the city impound lot as an abandoned vehicle.
Numerous calls from ABC News to Fitzgerald and Preveau were not answered.
According to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by ABC News, Fitzgerald and Preveau dated for several years and had a daughter, named Zoe, together. While the couple was dating, Preveau in early 2008 purchased the purple Monte Carlo from Fitzgerald's uncle Patrick Fitzgerald, using his 2007 income tax refund to pay $600 for the car.
Although Preveau was the car's "principal driver," he signed the title of the car to Jennifer. Sometime in November 2009, Preveau – no longer dating Fitzgerald – parked the car in United's lot at O'Hare and the car that day started racking up tickets, marked as "hazardous" and "dilapidated" and, eventually, for being left in the lot for over 30 days.
In December 2009, Fitzgerald said she started receiving notices about the tickets and, unable to move the car since it was in a secure airport lot, she pleaded with her ex-boyfriend to move it. According to the lawsuit, on "occasions too numerous to list... Jennifer and members of Jennifer's family have asked Brandon to move the [automobile]."
Fitzgerald eventually was hit with a fine of more than $105,000, landed on the city's Department of Revenue "Top 100 Scofflaw List," and was told that she might have her driver's license revoked.
According to the lawsuit, Fitzgerald believes United and the city of Chicago should have towed the car and junked it back in November 2009, rather than continuing to ticket it.
A spokesperson for United Airlines sought to discredit Fitzgerald's lawsuit. "United believes the suit against us is entirely without merit," said United's Christen David.
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