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Travel law: Uber and Lyft battle grounds – Philadelphia

Travel law: Uber and Lyft battle grounds – Philadelphia

This week, recent developments in Philadelphia in the ongoing battle between local taxi interests and others against ride sharing companies Uber and Lyft are examined.

In our recent article, eturbonews.com, Uber faces serious setbacks and challenges, eturbonews.com (8/13/2916) we examined recent developments in New York City involving Uber Technologies, Inc. and its ongoing battle for survival. This week we examine recent developments in Philadelphia in the ongoing battle between local taxi interests and others against ride sharing companies Uber and Lyft.

The Philadelphia Cases

Specifically, we will examine the cases of (1) Razak v. Uber Technologies, Inc., Civil Action No. 16-573 (J. Baylson) (E.D.Pa.), Decision dated October 7, 2016, a purported class action by Uber drivers seeking federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, (2) Coachtrans, Inc. v. Uber Technologies, Inc., Civil Action No. 16-88 (J. Kelly)(E.D. Pa.), Decision dated August 19, 2016, an action by a taxi company claiming tortious interference with a prospective business advantage, prima facie tort and false advertising under the Lanham Act, (3) Blount v. Philadelphia Parking Authority, Case Id. 160700831, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas (J. Carpenter) Order dated October 6, 2016 [enjoining Uber and Lyft from operating in Philadelphia] stayed by Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, 565 MD 2016, TRO issued October 7, 2016, an action brought by the head of Taxi Workers Alliance alleging Uber and Lyft “discriminated against disabled riders because there were no requirements to ensure vehicles can accommodate wheelchairs and no protections against refusing to allow service animals or unfair pricing [Mitchell, Judge Orders UberX and Lyft to Cease Operations in Phila., The Legal Intelligencer (October 6, 2016)] and (4) Lyft v. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC), Decision August 31, 2016, unanimous en banc panel ordering Lyft to provide number of trips in the state to PUC.

Travel Law Update 

Amtrak Settles For $265 Million

In D’Annunzio, Amtrak Settles Derailment Litigation for $265M, The Legal Intelligencer (10/27/2016) it was noted that “Amtrak has agreed to pay $265 million to settle claims stemming from the May 2015 train derailment that killed eight people and left hundreds injured in Philadelphia…The $265 million settlement encompasses all 125 claims filed for injuries and deaths associated with the crash. Each claim will be individually assessed under Pennsylvania law by two court-appointed masters who will determine damages…Amtrak Train 188 traveling from Washington, D.C., carried more than 200 people when it derailed…the train was traveling around a curve at roughly 100 mph-twice the speed limit for that section of rail”.


Australia: White-Water Rafting Accident

In Innis & Ives, Dreamworld Them Park Accident Kills 4, Australian Officials Say, nytimes.com (10/25/2016) it was noted that “Four people were killed on Tuesday when a raft in an amusement park’s white-water attraction flipped over, trapping them in the ride’s machinery…Two children who were riding with the four adults-two women and two men-managed to free themselves and survived…The accident occurred at Dreamworld, a theme park in Queensland, on an adventure known as the Thunder River Rapids ride…Dreamland, about 35 miles south of Brisbane, has a history of serious accidents. In June 2009, a helicopter operated by a contractor and carrying four passengers crashed into the parking lot while trying to land. Two of the passengers were seriously injured…Two tiger handlers were hospitalized in 2011 after being bitten by the same Bengal tiger of different occasions…And in April local media reported a man thrown from a log ride”.

And in Busch Gardens Closes Ride After Fatal Accident in Australia, The Associated Press, 10/26/2016, it was noted that “Busch Gardens Tampa Bay in Florida has decided to close a river rapids ride after four people were killed on a similar water ride at an amusement park in Australia. News outlets report Busch Gardens officials say the Congo River Rapids ride was shut down Tuesday ‘out of an abundance of caution’ while they work to understand what happened in Australia”.

Bullfighting In Catalonia

In Minder, Spanish Court Overturns a Ban Against Bullfighting in Catalonia, nytimes.com (10/20/2016) it was noted that “The Constitutional Court of Spain overturned a ban against bullfighting on Thursday that had been approved by lawmakers in Catalonia six years ago, a decision that simultaneously outraged separatists in the region and animal activists. The court voted 8 to 3 against the Catalan ban, finding that lawmakers from the region could not prohibit a practice that the justices said was enshrined in the cultural patrimony of the Spanish state. In its ruling the court said that regional politicians in Catalonia and elsewhere could regulate bullfighting and introduce specific measures, but that they could not ban it outright. The decision is not necessarily the final word, but any appeal against the constitutional court’s decision would also most likely have to be made before European courts”.

Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010

As noted in Dickerson, The Cruise Passengers Rights And Remedies 2014, nycourts.gov/courts/9jd/taxcertatd.shtml “In response to growing number of reported rapes, assaults and robberies aboard cruise ships touching U.S. ports…President Obama in July of 2010 signed into law the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 [the Act]. Section 2(13) provides in part: “To enhance the safety of cruise passengers, the owners of cruise vessels could upgrade, modernize and retrofit the safety and security infrastructure of such vessels in installing peep holes in passenger room doors, installing security video cameras in targeted areas, limiting access to passenger rooms to select staff during specific times and installing acoustic hailing and warning devices capable of communicating over distances”. In addition, the Act requires cruise vessel owners to maintain a log… which records “(I) all complaints of crimes… (ii) all complaints of theft of property in excess of $1,000 and (iii) all complaints of other crimes…; and (B) make such log book available upon request to any agent of the (FBI)…”. Further, the Act requires owners…to report to the (FBI) any incident involving “homicide, suspicious death, a missing United States national, kidnaping, assault with serious bodily injury…or theft of moneys or property in excess of $10,000″. The owner shall also “furnish a written report of the incident to an Internet based portal maintained by” the U.S. Coast Guard and “Each cruise taking or discharging passengers in the United States shall include a link on its Internet website to the (USCG) website”.


Safety Act Needs Some Adjustments

“While such information is helpful it is neither cruise ship specific nor does it require the reporting of thefts which are between $1,000 and $9,999 in value. These problems may be resolved as follows. First, requiring owners to report thefts less than $10,000 would allow local law enforcement to investigate and deter future crimes. Second, mandating owners to include the recorded thefts of property valued between $1,000 and $9,999 on the USCG website would allow prospective cruise passengers to better appreciate the risks associated with cruises. An even more effective method would be to breakdown the USCG online reporting by individual cruise ships, rather than by cruise lines, as is currently required. In fact, the CDC’s Monthly Cruise Vessel Sanitation Inspections are available online and ranked by cruise ship. Such information would allow consumers to select specific cruise ships based not only on sanitation but the reported incidents of criminal activity”.

Cruise Passenger Protection Act of 2015

In Cruise Passenger Protection Act of 2015, Maritime Law Association, Cruise Lines & Passenger Ships Committee Newsletter, October 2016, it was noted that “new (United States) senate bill, The Cruise Passenger Protection Act of 2015 (CPPA) has recently been introduced…it is designed to improve upon the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA). The CPPA would require (1) The installation of Man Overboard Systems on all cruise ships since the technology is now available…(2) A certified Victim’s Advocate who would be the victim’s primary point of contact in order to mark certain that a passenger is informed of his or her rights and the cruise line was in compliance with the law…(3) Medical staff credentialing and certifying process outlines in the CVSSA apply to all medical cases and not just sexual assaults… (4) Acoustic sounding devices be added to all cruise ships to enforce the Homeland Security requirement that no ship (i.e., ships manned with pirates or terrorist) come within 500 feet of a cruise ship…(5)The CVSSA apply to all cruise ships, whether or not the voyage embarks or disembarks in the United States, (6) A toll free hot-line and websites for passenger complaints and give the DOT authority to investigate, (7) Staffing of an appropriate number of sea marshals on a vessel, which are trained and certified by the USCG, (8) Strengthening of video surveillance requirements including placement, access to requests and notice of video surveillance equipment to monitor crime, (9) The DOT to maintain, on a website, the statistical compilation of reported incidents of missing persons, crimes and other information for vessel passengers, (10) The DOT be the lead federal agency on consumer protection issues for cruise ship passengers and determine if any of the enumerated rights in the international cruise passenger bill of rights is enforceable under federal law, (11) Civil and criminal penalties for the violations of this Act, including withholding or revoking clearance or denial of entry into the United States and (12) Cruise lines ;provide consumers with a clear upfront summary of the restrictive terms and conditions in cruise line contracts and a short summary of the key rights and limitations”.

The Uber And Lyft Cases In Philadelphia

The Razak Case

In the Razak case the Court noted in that “Plaintiffs (Razak and Sabani) bring (a) putative class (action for) violations of federal and Pennsylvania wage and labor laws (by Uber seeking (1)
federal minimum wages, (2) overtime premiums for hours in excess of 40 hours, (3) ‘free and clear’ wages, (4) Pennsylvania minimum wages and overtime wages, (5) regular paydays and (6) breach of fiduciary duty)”.

Factual Background

“Plaintiffs are Pennsylvania drivers participating in the Uber ride-sharing service…through Defendants’ App in Philadelphia…Plaintiffs are certified limousine drivers who provide services as Drivers through the Uber App’s UberBLACK platform. Plaintiffs…have each completed a required sign-n process to use the UberBLACK platform to book Riders, which involved ‘enter[ing] into an agreement with Uber setting forth the terms of using Uber’s Technology’, known as the Software and Online Service Agreement”.

Some Claims Go Forward

In D’Annunzio, Uber’s Minimum Wage Suit Moves Forward in Philadelphia, law.com (10/20/2016) it was noted that “A prospective class of Philadelphia UberBLACK drivers were given the green light to move forward with their lawsuit alleging the company failed to pay them the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson…denied Uber’s motion…to dismissed the drivers’ claims that the company violated the (FLSA) Fair Labor Standards Act by not paying them overtime”.

A Close Case

“In his opinion, Baylson said the drivers are not required to allege specifics about hours worked and wages earned because, under the FLA., employers are supposed to keep track of that information. ‘The instant complaint presents a class case because plaintiffs have not explicitly alleged that their average hourly wage fell below the federal minimum during any particular week’ Baylson said. ‘Construed liberally, however, plaintiff’ complaint contains sufficient factual allegations to permit the court to allow the reasonable inference that plaintiffs were not paid minimum wage’. The drivers claimed that Uber automatically deducts expenses from their earnings, including regulatory fees for the Philadelphia Parking Authority, vehicle payments ad insurance payments”.

The Coachtrans Case

In D’Annunzio, Federal Judge Tosses Taxi Co.’s Suit Against Uber, The Legal Intellgencer (8/22/2016) it was noted that “U.S. District Senior Judge Robert F. Kelly, Jr., of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted Uber’s motion to dismiss the complaint against it. In doing so, Kelly ruled that plaintiff Coachtrans Inc. Should not have made a federal case out of claims that were within the purview of state agencies. ‘To allege that it is false or misleading for Uber to call itself a taxi, when it meets the definition of a taxi, clearly implicated local and state regulations’. Kelly wrote in his opinion. ‘Plaintiff is essentially arguing that it is only false or misleading for Uber to call itself a taxi because it clearly meets the definition of a taxi, but simply neglects to comply with Pennsylvania’s regulations for taxis, i.e., you should not be permitted to advertise yourself as a taxi since you do not follow the local rules pertaining to taxis. Thus, plaintiff’s claim requires a review and application of the pertinent taxi regulations’. He continued, ‘plaintiff attempt to camouflage the enforcement of local rules and regulations under the guise of a false advertising claim’”.

The Blount Case

In Mitchell, Judge Orders UberX and Lyft to Cease Operations in Phila., The Legal Intelligencer (10/6/2016) it was noted that “A Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas judge has determined that rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft violate the civil rights of riders with disabilities and has order the services to stop operations in Philadelphia. Judge Linda Carpenter issued an order Thursday in Blount v. Philadelphia Parking Authority granting the plaintiffs’ request for an injunction against the parking authority regarding its regulation of transportation network companies or ‘TNCs’. The one-page order states that TNCs violate the Americans with Disabilities Act ad Philadelphia’s Fair Practices Ordinance and says the services ‘shall cease and desist within the city of Philadelphia…In their complaint filed in July, plaintiffs including Ron Blount, the head of the Taxi Workers Alliance, alleged the rideshare companies discriminate against disabled riders because there were no requirements to ensure vehicles can accommodate wheelchairs and no protections against refusing to allow service animals and unfair pricing”… The order comes less than a week after legislation allowing rideshare companies to operate legally within the city expired.

Stay Issued

In Mitchell, In Philadelphia, Uber Issues Are Muddy but Familiar, The Legal Intelligence (10/10/2016) it was noted that “The status of rideshare companies in Philadelphia remains unclear after an appellate court stayed a ruling that had ordered UberX and Lyft to stop operations in the City. And, although the situation doesn’t appear to be getting any clearer anytime soon, attorneys are seeing a familiar pattern in the dispute… Attorneys said the contention that a regulatory agency is playing favorites with a company that uses new technologies or a different business model is a familiar regulatory argument”.

The Lyft Case

In Seal, Lyft Can’t Protect Its Information on Unauthorized Rides, The Legal Intelligencer (9/8/2016) it was noted that “Lyft, Inc…operating in Pennsylvania since January 2015 under an experimental license, cannot shield information on the number of trips it provided in the state prior to receiving authorization, the Commonwealth Court has ruled. The company’s data reveal no details of its operations that would invite substantial competitive harm, a unanimous en banc panel held Aug. 31 in Lyft v. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. Further, the public has a right to know about Lyft’s noncompliance between February and August 2014, the court ruled. Administrative law judges handling Lyft’s license applications with the Public Utility Commission requested evidence from the company regarding trips it had already made, and Lyft sought a protective order, asserting the data’s proprietary nature”.

Justice Dickerson has been writing about travel law for 39 years including his annually updated law books, Travel Law, Law Journal Press (2016) and Litigating International Torts in U.S. Courts, Thomson Reuters WestLaw (2016), and over 400 legal articles many of which are available at nycourts.gov/courts/9jd/taxcertatd.shtml. Justice Dickerson is also the author of Class Actions: The Law of 50 States, Law Journal Press (2016). For additional travel law news and developments, especially in the member states of the EU, see IFTTA.org.

This article may not be reproduced without the permission of Thomas A. Dickerson.

Read many of Justice Dickerson’s articles here.

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