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Boston Taxi Owners Association, Inc. v. City of Boston

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

December 21, 2016

Boston Taxi Owners Association, Inc., Steven Goldberg and Joseph Pierre Plaintiffs,
v.
City of Boston and Boston Police Commissioner William Evans Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          NATHANIEL M. GORTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Boston Taxi Owners Association, Inc. and taxi medallion holders, Steven Goldberg and Joseph Pierre (collectively, “plaintiffs”), allege that the City of Boston and Boston Police Commissioner William Evans (“defendants”) violated their equal protection rights by not applying the same regulatory framework to taxicabs and so-called transportation network companies (“TNCs”).

         Defendants have filed a motion 1) to dismiss plaintiffs' claims for declaratory and injunctive relief and 2) for judgment on the pleadings with respect to the equal protection and monetary relief claims. For the following reasons, defendants' motion will be allowed.

         I. Background

         Eight months have elapsed since this Court denied plaintiffs' second motion for a preliminary injunction. Since then, the General Court has enacted and the Governor of Massachusetts has signed into law a comprehensive statute, M.G.L. ch. 159A½ (“the Act”), regulating TNCs at the state level.

         The Act defines a TNC as

a corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship or other entity that uses a digital network to connect riders to drivers to pre-arrange and provide transportation.

Id. § 1. The Act also delegates regulation of TNCs to a new state “division” within the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities. Id. § 2. That division implements insurance requirements, monitors fare estimates, ensures the safety and annual inspection of TNC vehicles and monitors the accommodation of riders with special needs. Id. The division also issues permits, which are annually renewed, to TNCs and it has the power to conduct hearings and impose penalties on TNCs which are noncompliant with the Act. Id. §§ 3, 6.

         Moreover, the Act ostensibly removes TNCs from local regulation. Section 10 provides, in part:

[N]o municipality or other local or state entity, except the Massachusetts Port Authority . . . may subject a [TNC] to the municipality's or other local or state entity's rate or other requirements . . . .

M.G.L. ch. 159A½, § 10. The Act does not, however, prevent municipalities from regulating “traffic flow and traffic patterns to ensure public safety and convenience.” Id.

         In July, 2016, plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint, in which they allege one substantive claim for “due process/equal protection” violations (Count IV). So-called Counts I (declaratory judgment), II (injunctive relief) and III (damages) simply describe plaintiffs' requested relief.

         Pursuant to an order of this Court (Docket No. 66), defendants filed a status report in September, 2016, explaining that they are now precluded from regulating TNCs. Shortly thereafter, plaintiffs filed their own status report and, for a third time, moved for a preliminary injunction. Defendants responded by filing a motion 1) to dismiss and 2) for judgment on the pleadings.

         The facts underlying this case were summarized extensively in prior orders of this Court and will not be repeated here. Instead, the Court will assume familiarity with that record and will incorporate and/or supplement additional facts where necessary.

         II. Defendants' ...


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