Most — but Not All — of Cabbies’ Uber Suit Thrown Out
A federal judge has dismissed most of the claims brought by a coalition of Philly taxi companies against Uber, the popular app-centric “ride share” service.
The portions of the lawsuit dismissed included claims that Uber provides unfair competition by providing ride services without complying with taxi cab licensing and regulatory requirements, as well as allegations of racketeering and false advertising.
“The crux of Plaintiffs’ amended complaint is that Defendants have gained an unfair competitive advantage over traditional taxicab dispatch services and locally licensed/authorized taxicab drivers … because they avoid the cost and burdens of complying with various state laws and local regulations that apply to taxi services in Philadelphia,” U.S. District Judge Nitza I. Quinones Alejandro observed in her Monday ruling. (The news was first reported on Tuesday by Law 360.)
One portion of the lawsuit allowed to proceed: An allegation that an Uber official violated federal laws against unfair advertising by saying there was “no guarantee” Philly taxis were insured following the bankruptcy of the state’s largest taxi cab insurer. In fact, the cabs in question still had valid insurance. “Therefore, Uber’s statements expressly suggesting that the insurance policies had been terminated or cancelled as of 5:00 p.m. on October 24, 2014, were literally false,” the judge wrote.
The lawsuit was filed in December 2014 by Checker Cab and 43 allied tax cab companies, likening Uber’s operations to a “brazen and open” bootlegging operation. Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission has allowed UberX — a discount service operated by the company — to operate in the state, but not in Philadelphia, where taxis are regulated by the Philadelphia Parking Authority.
In her ruling, the judge:
• Dismissed outright all claims against Google Venture LLC, which had been named as a defendant for investing in Uber.
• Dismissed racketeering claims against Uber, citing insufficient evidence.
• Dismissed the “unfair competition” claims by noting that state and local regulations were at issue — and thus not the jurisdiction of the federal courts.
• Dismissed a “false advertising” claim by noting that the claim in question — that UberX fares are “at least 20% cheaper” than taxicabs — was, based on the evidence, the “literal truth.”
No word on when the remaining claim — about the insurance status of Philly taxis — will proceed.
An Uber spokesman said today: “In a major victory for riders and drivers, the court has categorically rejected this latest attempt by taxi medallion owners to stop ridesharing in Philadelphia. Uber will continue to serve all Pennsylvanians by providing access to safe, reliable rides at the push of a button.”