Taxi Company Argues Uber Operated Illegal Taxi Service at 1st Circuit

On May 12, Anoush Cab, Inc., et al filed a brief before the 1st Circuit arguing against the lower court’s Memorandum of Decision “absolving” Uber Technologies from allegations that it competed unfairly and knowingly violated Boston’s vehicle-for-hire laws. The plaintiffs, 34 taxi operators, originally claimed in 2017 that Uber operated an unlicensed hackney carriage business and violated Boston’s vehicle-for-hire laws, as well as civil conspiracy and aiding and abetting.

Under the Boston Police Department’s Rule 403, “Hackney Carriages” are vehicles “used or designed to be used for the conveyance of persons for hire from place to place within the city of Boston.” The plaintiffs argued that while Uber was technically a hackney carriage business, it broke the law by failing to comply with Boston regulations regarding taxi medallions. Issued in limited numbers, the medallions act as taxi licenses.

According to the new brief, the plaintiffs’ previous case was dismissed after the district court ruled that Uber “was exonerated from liability because [it] believed that it had the tacit approval of government officials who were aware of its conduct but did not stop it.” On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that the district court ignored common law precedent imposing “liability on unlicensed competitors for unfair competition when one purpose of the licensing requirement is to protect licensed competitors from unauthorized competition.” The plaintiffs also objected to the court’s allowance of a defense of “good faith.” The brief asked, “Is  good  faith a defense  to  liability  for  unfair  methods of  competition or unfair practices?”

The plaintiffs went on to argue that the court below applied incorrect standards and relied upon “legally impermissible” factors in determining that Uber did not violate consumer protection laws. Finally, the plaintiffs alleged the court below erred in the assessment of damages, including loss of profits and a decrease in the value of taxi medallions.

This case is one of several against Uber’s activities in Massachusetts, including another employee misclassification lawsuit. The company has recently faced similar accusations nationwide.