Court of Petty Appeals: Ingles, et al. v. Parkers of Arlington Blvd. and City of Charlottesville 251 U.Va 900 (2017)

HADEN, J., announcing the opinion of the Court, joined by GOLDMAN, C.J., and THORNTON, PICKUS, and JANI, J.J.

Today we consider a case relating to a permanent issue around the Law School: parking. We affirm in part and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

The facts of this case are not in serious dispute. The area in question is Arlington Boulevard between Massie Road and Millmont Street (hereinafter “Arlington”). The lead plaintiff, Sarah Ingles, is a resident in the relevant area of Arlington.

Plaintiff Ingles alleges, and defendants do not dispute, that there is a variety of street parking available in the Arlington area. All of this street parking is parallel parking. In addition, there is designated resident parking inside or around each of the various living areas and apartments in the Arlington area. This parking is for residents only; the street parking is free for use by anyone, including residents. At all times while she has lived on Arlington, Ingles has also owned a car.

Plaintiff’s main complaint relates to the street parking. Plaintiff alleges that people who use the street parking do so improperly. These parkers leave at least half of a car length between the cars, resulting in fewer parking spaces available for people to use. Plaintiff alleges that this behavior is intolerable, and she prayed for both injunctive relief and money damages against those relevant parkers on Arlington. In addition, she has sued the City of Charlottesville and its officers in charge of parking enforcement, alleging that they have failed in their duty to properly monitor the parking situation on Arlington. 

After plaintiff filed this lawsuit, she was joined by several other residents on Arlington, who share her same complaint. Most notably, the entity known as MindsEye also joined the suit, claiming he or she needed money damages for “some side projects,” which honestly concerns us. In the lower court, injunctive relief against all defendants was entered. In addition, the court found that the plaintiffs were entitled to money damages from the parking defendants; however, the court allowed an interlocutory appeal before a trial on damages, in part to certify the following question to this Court: “Should monetary damages be allowed in this case?”

At the outset, we note our jurisdiction. Dean Goluboff has asked that we start including this section in our cases to affirm this Court’s plenary power over the Law School after the contentious power struggle of Court of Petty Appeals ex rel. Ferzan v. Doran, 819 U.Va 187 (2017) (“Give it up, dude; no one pronounces it that way.”). We have jurisdiction over this case because the plaintiffs are law students at UVa Law, and because the area in question is adjacent to the school.

I. We turn first to the plaintiffs’ claims against the Improper Parkers on Arlington (hereinafter “IPAs”). The named defendants whom plaintiffs were able to identify contest only the awarding of money damages; they do not challenge the lower court’s decision to enter injunctive relief against them. This concession is a wise one. It would be most unfortunate for a party to claim that this Court lacks the power to enforce a rule through our equitable powers. Indeed, as the Court below found (and as we are also convinced), these IPAs have been parking very badly. They have taken up more than their fair share of spots, and they must be enjoined from this behavior in the future. 

Defendants instead attack the lower court’s awarding of money damages to plaintiffs for a successful claim of the tort of irritation. As Justice Jani pointed out in Unner v. SSLP, the tort of irritation requires a showing that irritating conduct has occurred, and that such conduct falls outside of the normal scope of irritation. 696 U. Va 924 (2017). Defendants have nominally challenged both prongs of the tort, but during oral argument, they appeared to abandoned the first prong after we made it “really fucking clear that we don’t like people who take up extra parking spaces.” They instead argue that the parking does not fall outside of the normal scope of irritation.

To support this contention, they claim that plaintiffs, as residents of Arlington, have their own designated resident parking spots, where they can keep their cars. Therefore, the bad parking on the street, while mildly annoying, cannot be overly irritating to them. This contention, however, does not take into account the complexities of the plaintiffs’ position.

First, plaintiffs (wisely) did not sue under a theory of conversion. That is, they have not claimed that they have a property right to the street parking that has been violated by the defendants. Instead, they made several factual claims in the court below. They asserted that their guests are harmed by IPAs. They argue that apartments with more residents than resident parking spaces are harmed by IPAs. They argue that bad parking requires Uber drivers, OrderUp vans, and mail trucks to double park, affecting traffic flow. We are convinced that all of these factual allegations together make a sufficient factual basis for the lower court’s finding that the conduct of the IPAs falls outside of the normal scope of irritation.

Perhaps more fundamentally, defendants’ appeal misunderstands the basic premise of this suit. Defendants seem to believe that plaintiffs are only allowed to bring this suit because they are residents of Arlington. They believe that this resident status gives these plaintiffs, and only these plaintiffs, standing to bring this suit. This idea is fundamentally false. ALL PEOPLE who attempt to street park on Arlington but are unable to do so because of IPAs may bring a suit in our lower courts for money damages and injunctive relief. Defendants argue this ruling is unfair, but life is unfair. Learn to park.

Defendants’ final contention is that money damages are unavailable because the harm here is incalculable. We have more faith in our lower courts than the defendants do. “Just because something is hard to calculate, doesn’t make it incalculable.” Accounting and Corporate Finance v. Haden’s Exam, 7 U.Va 918 (2015). We therefore remand to the lower court for an estimation of damages each plaintiff is due. As with all cases in our Petty Jurisdiction, punitive damages are available. Davies v. Wednesday Keg, 12 U.Va 781 (2015) (“It doesn’t get much more petty than being punitive.”).

II. The City of Charlottesville has also appealed the injunction entered against it in the lower court. That injunction provides that the City of Charlottesville, through its officers, must enforce this Court’s decision by ticketing IPAs regularly. The defendants claim that this injunction is invalid because municipal governments cannot be enjoined into following the law, and even if they could be, the injunction is too vague because it only specifies “regular” ticketing as opposed to specific frequencies.

Defendants cite Ex parte Young, a U.S. Supreme Court case, for the proposition that private citizens cannot enjoin state actors. However, we note that case is inapplicable for two reasons: (1) Ex parte Young only applies to federal and state courts, and we are an entirely different Petty court; and (2) we are not bound by Supreme Court decisions, and we never have been. See all of the terrible choices that the Supreme Court has made over the years. 

We see no problem with forcing officers to enforce the law. In fact, one might say that an officer’s whole job is to enforce the law. Theoretically, defendants are correct that we shouldn’t have to force people to do their jobs at all. But clearly, the situation on Arlington has gotten out of hand.

We also see no problem with the word “regularly” as used in the injunction. “Regular” has enough of a commonplace meaning that we feel that defendants will have little to no trouble acting within the reasonable bounds of the injunction. Should a citizen feel that the defendants are not adequately adhering to the injunction, that citizen may file an action in our lower courts to enforce the injunction or have the defendants held in contempt.

There may indeed come a time where this injunction is no longer necessary. We speak of a time where a person is free to park on Arlington because other people have not selfishly parked to prohibit maximum parkage. However, we do not live in such a time. Therefore, until we live in such a utopia, we must grant the plaintiffs their relief.

Judgment affirmed; case remanded to the lower court for a determination of damages. 


ANGELOTTI, J., dissenting 

I do not like parallel parking. I did not learn how to do it, I do not like to do it, and I will not force people to be better at it. If people can’t find parking, they should just Uber. Or park at the Law School. It’s free.

1 Or, if the IPA is a repeat offender, the IPA may be held in contempt of this Court's order today.