Three nurses from Ninewells Hospital have been ordered to pay more than £4,000 in parking fines after a landmark judgment at Dundee Sheriff Court.
Sheriff Lorna Drummond has ruled in favour of Indigo Park Services UK Ltd, which operates the car parks at Ninewells, after the company sued the nurses for unpaid parking fines and recovery charges amounting to £4,077, plus expenses.
The civil action is seen as a test case for drivers refusing to pay parking fines at Ninewells Hospital and Sheriff Drummond’s judgment is now expected to lead to dozens of other drivers, including Ninewells employees, being sued for payment through the courts.
The nurses had claimed the recovery charges were exorbitant and the signs containing information about terms and conditions were unclear.
They had also challenged Indigo Park’s entitlement to charge the fines and recover charges as the original agreement for the car park was between .
The action against student nurse Conor Watson for the offences in 2016 was by a company called Indigo Infra Dundee Ltd, the new name for Vinci Park, which later changed its name again to Indigo Park Services UK Ltd — which the nurses claimed rendered the claims incompetent.
Mr Watson was being sued for £1,085, made up of eight separate parking fines of £40, plus eight times the recovery charge of £96.
An advocate acting for Mr Watson admitted he had parked in car parks five and six at Ninewells without a valid ticket and was willing to pay the £320 outstanding. Mr Watson admitted he had not read the terms and conditions on the signs but believed the £40 would cover any recovery costs.
However, the sheriff decided the matter of whether Indigo Parks had title to sue had not been raised at the appropriate time and had been put forward only at the hearing stage, therefore the company did have title to raise the court action.
She also rejected the claims by the nurses that the signs were not clear and ruled that the charges were enforceable and not exorbitant.
In the other cases, aside from some small differences, the same tests were used and the sheriff ruled in the same way.
In each case, the nurses said they could not afford the annual parking permits, or that they were unsuitable for their shifts or placements.
Paediatric nurse Nicola Meachan had parked in Westgate car park, which is permit only, and in the Maternal and Child Health car park, which is pay and display.
She had been fined seven times and charged each time for recovery costs, amounting to a total of £952.
The other respondent, clinical nurse Julie Lindsay, who has worked for NHS Tayside for nearly 30 years specialising in breast cancer care, had paid for parking tickets, but had been fined on 15 occasions for overstaying in the car park due to her shifts running late because of the demands of the service.
She works at Ninewells in the mornings and Perth Royal Infirmary in the afternoons, so a parking permit was not suitable for her needs.
Ms Lindsay will now have to pay the total of £2,040, plus expenses, to the company.
Both Mr Watson and Ms Meachan declined to comment when approached by the Tele.
Ms Lindsay could not be reached for comment.
‘I think it’s wrong… we need changes’
A UNION leader has hit out at the decision to force nursing staff to pay the parking fines.
Graham Nelson, of Unite, who represents staff including porters at the hospital, said he was “very disappointed” at the outcome of the case and wants wholesale changes to the parking set-up at the hospital.
He said: “This opens the door for others to be forced to pay-up.
“I think it’s completely wrong that nursing and other health staff at the hospital should have to pay to park there when they go to work.
“I would like to see parking costs waived for all health staff.
“Many of the nurses work over their hours and are then faced with parking fines.
“The Scottish Government should definitely look at the possibility of buying out this contract.”
However, Indigo insists it takes legal action only as a last resort.
A spokeswoman said: “We run the contract to enforce parking restrictions at Ninewells Hospital in order to keep the site safe and free-flowing for users including emergency vehicles.
“Three motorists on numerous occasions did not abide by the terms and conditions of the car park.
“The motorists ignored the parking charge notices issued and declined to use the formal appeals process.”
The spokeswoman said that more than a dozen notices were issued on average to each of the staff members, and that they received more than 200 letters between them on how they could appeal or settle the outstanding notices.
She added: “Cases are constantly reviewed and we consider legal action only as a final resort.”