City Council Sues Itself, Seeks Costs for Frivolous Lawsuit

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The author of a book about the parking situation in London (which is evidently so bad an entire book can be written about it) says that area city councils routinely issue tickets to city-owned vehicles but then dispute the tickets, requiring them to appeal against themselves in an effort to force themselves to pay themselves the amount of the fine.  Or in an effort to not pay it, I guess.

Barrie Segal wrote that in one case, the council failed to offer any evidence against itself, and then tried to recover costs from itself on the grounds that its lawsuit had been unjustified.

Parking disputes in England are resolved under provisions of the Road Traffic Act of 1991.  Motorists who want to challenge a ticket first present the challenge to the council for the area where the ticket was issued.  If the challenge is rejected, there is another appeal to an official known as the Parking and Traffic Adjudicator.  After the Adjudicator (a much scarier title than "judge," although it seems a little misplaced in the parking context) rules on the appeal, either side may seek costs, but costs are allowed only if a party's behavior is found to have been "frivolous, vexatious or wholly unreasonable."

The council that sued itself was Islington, which believed (wrongly) that its individual departments had independent legal status.  In 2007, an Islington officer ticketed an Islington vehicle, but the department that got the ticket appealed.  Because the department is not a different entity, in legal terms the council was appealing a ticket it got from the council, and under the rules above, the council was hearing its own appeal.  After the council rejected its appeal, it then appealed again to the Parking Adjudicator.  But having appealed, it then presented no evidence, and the Adjudicator voided the ticket.  Feeling its appeal had been an outrageous waste of time, the council asked for costs, thus accusing itself of having acted frivolously, vexatiously and/or wholly unreasonably toward itself.  The Adjudicator declined to award costs, pointing out that "[t]he legal status of the two parties in this appeal amounted to one and the same."

Several other councils have reportedly sued themselves as well, including one that managed to win its case and so had to pay itself the fine.

This item from last year contains Segal's top ten ticket incidents, including a man ticketed for being parked too long in front of a bank, despite his explanation that the bank was being robbed at the time; and a man ticketed after a scooter accident, apparently while he was still laying in the road with a broken leg.

Link: Times Online