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
As a result, Broggi issued the citation for the missing
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
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.”