Whitfield v. City of AtlantaAnnotate this Case
James Whitfield filed suit against the City of Atlanta and Secure Parking Enforcement, LLC (SPE) after his car was booted in Northeast Atlanta while illegally parked in a lot reserved for customers of a dry cleaning business. In his complaint, Whitfield sought a declaration that the City ordinance authorizing and regulating vehicle immobilization was unconstitutional and that the practice of booting was thus unlawful. In the alternative, Whitfield contended that the signage in the parking lot where SPE had booted his car failed to comply with certain specifications prescribed in the immobilization ordinance, thus entitling him to recover as damages the cost of removing the immobilization device. The trial court granted the City's motion to dismiss and ordered SPE, whose answer had been filed by its owner (a non-lawyer), to obtain counsel by a certain date. When SPE failed to do so, the trial court struck SPE's answer and entered a default judgment against SPE for the cost of removing the boot plus court costs. The trial court rejected Whitfield's contention that the ordinance was unconstitutional. Despite prevailing on his damages claim, Whitfield appealed, contending that the trial court erred in dismissing the City from the suit, and determining that the vehicle immobilization ordinance was constitutional. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred by not considering the merits of Whitfield's constitutional challenge. The Court vacated that portion of the trial court's judgment, but affirmed in all other respects.