Chicago agrees to refund duplicate tickets since 1992, following lawsuit

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Photo by April Alonso

For Jacie Zolna, the experience transpired more like a lawyer’s fantasy of a TV drama, where the whole case gets wrapped up by the end of the episode.

The lawsuit against the city, which had taken him since June to analyze, research and prepare, was basically handled in a few hours last week.

“Everything kind of happened in one day. It was like filed 11 [a.m.] and the city announced they’re basically going to fold and give everyone their money back at 2 p.m.,” said Zolna.

The suit alleges that the city targeted black and brown communities with vehicle sticker tickets after jacking up the price of the sticker. The city also issued duplicate tickets to the same car, which is specifically prohibited under the Municipal Code of Chicago, the lawsuit alleges.

Zolna’s suit relied heavily on data from Driven Into Debt, a joint investigation by WBEZ and ProPublica Illinois that revealed the city had issued 20,000 duplicate city sticker tickets since 2007.

Last Thursday, the city announced it was throwing out 23,000 duplicate tickets it’s doled out since 1992 for city stickers, about 12,000 more than the publications’ data accounted for, according to further reporting by WBEZ and ProPublica Illinois.

The city is working to notify drivers about possible refunds and upgrading its technology to preemptively dismiss multiple tickets, said Director of Public Affairs for the Finance Department Kristen Cabanban said.

“Between 2007 and 2018, duplicate tickets represented less than one percent of all issued city sticker violations and less than one tenth of one percent of all issued parking violations. Motorists who receive tickets in error can and have always been able to contest them,” said Cabanban.

Zolna said he was still skeptical about the announcement because he’s only seen statements to the media and no action. He still hopes to have the suit certified as a class action.