PHILADELPHIA - The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania has overturned a lower court ruling that upheld a fine imposed by the Philadelphia Parking Authority, Taxicab and Limousine Division against Germantown Cab Co.

In appealing a decision by the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Germantown Cab contended that the trial court erred because the Parking Authority does not regulate limited service taxicabs operating pursuant to a certificate of public convenience issued by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC).

Germantown Cab was cited by Parking Authority official John Broggi on March 8, 2014, for not equipping one of its cabs with a protective shield as required by state law. The cab company contested the citation.

  

An initial hearing was set for Oct. 14, 2014, and Germantown Cab asked for several continuances. The company did not appear at a hearing on March 11, 2015, and the hearing officer proceeded without its presence.

During the hearing, Broggi, who was the only witness, testified that he saw the cab with its dome light on, indicating it was available for service. He said the cab had a functioning meter in place that was ready to operate.

Broggi testified that during the stop, he found several problems with the cab. It did not have a sticker issued by the Parking Authority; the tire in the trunk was not covered; and it did not have a protective shield between the driver and passenger compartment.

As a result, Broggi issued the citation for the missing protective shield.

The hearing officer determined that Germantown Cab failed to adequately equip its cab with a protective shield, and they were ordered to pay a $350 civil penalty and an administrative fee of $75 for a total fine of $425.

Germantown Cab appealed to the trial court, and on Feb. 25, 2016, the trial court heard argument.

Germantown Cab did not dispute the facts of the case, but it questioned the Parking Authority’s jurisdiction to issue citations on this particular trip.

The trial court upheld the Parking Authority’s jurisdiction, noting that Germantown Cab was able to provide service in Philadelphia according to its PUC certificate.

However, the certificate covers several areas, and not all areas require a protective shield. The trial court ruled that the Parking Authority may not require Germantown Cab to install a protective shield, reasoning that it would create an undue hardship on Germantown Cab to comply with the regulations of the Parking Authority and the PUC when conflicts exist.

However, when a cab operates outside of its PUC certificate, the trial court ruled that the Parking Authority could impose its regulations on the errant cab.

The trial court determined that there was no dual regulation jurisdiction issue because Germantown Cab was not operating within the parameters of its PUC certificate. As a result, it could be held liable for not having a protective shield.

Germantown Cab then appealed its case to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.

In its March 6 decision, the Commonwealth Court noted that it recently held that the Parking Authority cannot impose its regulations on partial rights taxicabs operating in Philadelphia.  

In Bucks County Services Inc. v. Philadelphia Parking Authority and Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, the court ruled it was unreasonable and overly burdensome for the Parking Authority to regulate its operations.

The court determined that the cab companies are only subject to regulation by the PUC.

In its ruling in the Bucks County Services case, the Commonwealth Court declared nine specific Parking Authority regulations invalid and unenforceable, including the regulation requiring a taxicab to be equipped with a protective shield.

Moreover, the Commonwealth Court ruled that the trial court’s decision was inconsistent with precedent.

“The PUC does not require partial rights operators to have a protective shield and this court has invalidated the Parking Authority’s protective shield regulation as it applies to partial writes cabs," President Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt wrote in the opinion. "Stated otherwise, assuming Germantown Cab operated outside the service area in its PUC certificate, this does not subject it to a medallion taxicab regulation.”  

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