A judge on Tuesday (April 26) dismissed a lawsuit from Jefferson Parish taxicab drivers who alleged that that Uber drivers committed unfair trade practices. But the cabbies’ attorney said their challenge to the ride-hailing company for compensation is “probably not over.”
“Whether we file a new suit, whether we appeal this one, whether we pursue it in Orleans, it’s not done yet,” said Yvette D’Aunoy. Her comment came after Judge Ellen Kovach of the 24th Judicial District Court said the 19 cab drivers who were plainitffs in the case had no cause of action against drivers for San Francisco-based Uber Technologies Inc.
Defendants undercut cabbies with lower fares, free of regulation, suit says
D’Aunoy had traded barbs in court with Matt Coman, the Uber drivers’ attorney who said her complaints fail because they involve violations of parish ordinances, which he said do not apply to Uber’s drivers and their private vehicles.
The faceoff was the latest in a string of lawsuits and political disputes between Uber and conventional cab drivers across the United States. “Uber drivers are personally liable to law-abiding, for-hire drivers in other realms,” including limousine drivers and other regulated drivers whose “market share is being taken” when Uber charges lower fares, D’Aunoy said. Coman told the court that none of the accusations included in the suit involved the company’s pricing model.
D’Aunoy said her clients “are losing money every day because the Uber drivers are operating unfairly.” Her suit alleged that Uber drivers violated the law by not obtaining permits to operate in Jefferson and failed to undergo background checks and drug tests.
The company will pay $28.5 million to 25 million customers across the country and re-brand its “safe ride fee” as a “booking fee.”
A year ago, the Jefferson Parish Council voted down regulations for ride-hailing companies. As a result, taxi drivers say the company and its drivers must adhere to the same local laws that apply to cabs.
Uber says those laws don’t apply. “Today’s dismissal is a win for the people of Jefferson Parish who rely on Uber for access to safe, reliable transportation options and flexible work opportunities,” company spokesman Bill Gibbons said. “We look forward to continuing our discussions with parish officials to develop a sensible, modern regulatory framework for ride-sharing in the community.”
In addition to a similar suit in New Orleans between cab drivers and UberX drivers, there is a pending Jefferson Parish government suit against the company for allegedly violating parish ordinances. D’Aunoy said the New Orleans case also covers Jefferson Parish.
The suits in both Jefferson and Orleans Parish are among the dozens of Uber-related cases playing out in courts nationwide. D’Aunoy, however, said she does not “think there have been any suits that are driver-to-driver.”
“What’s happened is we have drivers suing Uber, we have taxicab companies suing Uber, we have unions suing Uber. But we didn’t have a pure driver-to-driver suit,” she said.
Uber officials say the company is “disappointed” that the plaintiffs pursued “frivolous legal action in an attempt to limit transportation options.” Company officials also said the cabbies’ efforts are an attempt to “intimidate hard-working driver-partners” who try to make extra money by “providing a valuable service” to the city.
It will pay an initial sum of $84 million to settle cases in California and Massachusetts.