Sonora wins lawsuit over $41 parking ticket

By Alex MacLean, The Union Democrat

A Jamestown man who attempted to turn his $41 parking ticket from the Sonora Police Department into a $236,000 payday has lost his legal battle against the city in Tuolumne County Superior Court.

Jason Frye, 47, of Jamestown, was denied a jury trial Thursday when the court ruled in favor of the city’s motion to dismiss the case. He tried to appeal the decision at a requested hearing Friday, but Judge Kevin Seibert upheld the ruling.

“Well … So that ends it,” Frye said after emerging from the courthouse on Washington Street Friday morning.

At a previous hearing last October, Seibert scheduled a jury trial to begin in April.

However, the city filed a motion in December to have the case thrown out based on several claims, only one of which was ultimately granted.

The lawsuit stemmed from a ticket Frye was issued Nov. 25, 2015, for being parked in his white Hummer H3 next to a red curb marked as a fire lane on private property outside of Wells Fargo Bank at 808 E. Mono Way.

Frye disputed the city’s authority to issue tickets for parking in the particular spot because he was unable to find a record of the Sonora Fire Department or Sonora City Council officially designating the curb as a fire lane.

The lawsuit sought compensation for damages to Frye, including $225,300 for emotional distress, $10,500 for pain, suffering and inconvenience, $550 for the time he spent investigating the matter and $41 for the initial ticket.

In the ruling, the court granted the city’s motion on the grounds that Frye did not file an appropriate government claim expressing his intention to take legal action prior to initiating the lawsuit.

“The idea of a government claim is you put the city on notice that you are going to sue them,” Seibert told Frye at Friday’s hearing. “That gives them six months to resolve the issue, but there’s nothing in your letter that says you’re going to sue them.”

The ruling also stated, however, that the city didn’t provide enough evidence to prove the curb had been officially designated as a fire lane at the time Frye received his ticket.

City Administrator Tim Miller defended the validity of the fire lane in an interview Friday.

“The vehicle code grants authority to the fire chief to designate a fire lane,” Miller said. “The fact that we don’t have a record from whatever past chief it was, because that thing was built over 20 years ago, doesn’t make it invalid.”

An attorney for the Central San Joaquin Valley Risk Management Authority represented the city at Friday’s hearing. The city pays an annual fee for the authority to handle claims and lawsuits on its behalf.

Frye said he felt some satisfaction from the fact that the court’s ruling found a lack of evidence to support the city’s argument that the fire lane was legitimate.

“It shows I was on the right track,” Frye said. “The only reason I didn’t win this case was because of paperwork.”

It was one of a number of legal roadblocks that Frye encountered while representing himself throughout the case.

Frye, a private investigator, has said his only background with the law comes from a stint working as a sheriff’s deputy in Nevada, where he was fired for insubordination after a little over a year.

At the first court proceeding in August, Frye wasn’t allowed to provide arguments because he failed to notify the court at the appropriate time about his intention to speak.

Frye also filed a 39-page memorandum in response to the city’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, but the ruling stated the court could only consider 20 pages of the document because of rules on page limits.

Frye estimated he’s spent about $5,000 on legal fees and other costs associated with the lawsuit. He said it’s also taken time away from his pursuit of a doctorate’s degree in psychology from Saybrook University in Oakland.

Frye claimed he turned down an offer to settle the case for $300 in December because $1,000 was the lowest settlement he would accept.

Despite the loss, Frye said he didn’t have any regrets.

“Ultimately, I think it was worth it to help educate the public,” Frye said. “My advice is that if you feel like you’ve been mistreated, stand up for yourself.”

16756777
The Union Democrat
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