SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

May 25, 2011

Woman loses appeal of $300 ticket for parking in handicapped spot

DANVERS — A judge has rejected the appeal of a Lynnfield woman who was slapped with a $300 ticket for parking her Mercedes SUV in a handicapped space outside BJ's Wholesale Club so she could run in to retrieve a credit card in the pouring rain.

Janice Eberle took Danvers to court last spring after the parking clerk, Stephen Delaney, refused to dismiss her ticket, which she received on March 30, 2010.

In his ruling Monday, Newburyport Superior Court Judge Robert Cornetta affirmed Delaney's May 4, 2010 decision and gave Eberle until July 7 to pay the violation. Cornetta did not award court costs to either party.

Eberle never denied she parked in the handicapped space. She never claimed she had a handicapped parking placard or plate. The town and the judge, however, said despite some hardships she was facing at the time — heavy rain, the need to retrieve a credit card, a basement full of water and recent shoulder surgery — she had no right to park where she did.

Cornetta asked rhetorically what the value of an illegally occupied handicapped space is to a disabled person who needs it.

"Obviously, since these exclusive spaces must be available instantly for the accommodation of a disabled person, the answer is 'none,'" Cornetta wrote.

Janice Eberle's husband, Robert Eberle, said yesterday he accepts the judge's decision.

However, this was not a case of a rich woman who makes it a habit of parking in a handicapped space, he said, nor was it about someone going on a shopping spree. The Mercedes SUV in question has about 200,000 miles on it and is about 12 years old, he said.

"I've been married to my wife for 25 years, and she has never parked in a handicapped space," Eberle said.

Instead, his wife had plenty of "extenuating circumstances."

According to Robert Eberle, a heavy rain storm brought down a tree in their neighborhood, and with no power for the sump pump, the basement filled with 2 feet of water. While Robert Eberle hauled stuff up from the basement, Janice Eberle, who had recently undergone rotator cuff surgery, found a generator at BJ's.

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