Taxi Owners Sue Miami-Dade For $1 Billion After Uber & Lyft Are Legalized

Uber and Lyft have operated in Miami-Dade in a murky legal gray area for years. After lots of talks and false starts the Miami-Dade County Commission finally passed an ordinance yesterday to legalize the car-for-hire apps. 

It wasn't even a close vote. The ordinance passed 9-2, and was widely hailed by citizens on social media. 

Understandably, though, the traditional taxi cab industry wasn't joining the celebration party. Less than 24 hours later, a group that owns about 2,100 taxi medallions have joined together to announced that they're now suing Miami-Dade County for the mega-sum of $1 billion. 

"These laws completely devalue, and discriminate against, taxi medallions which the county has deemed to be intangible property," said a spokeswoman for the group in a statement. "In so doing, Miami-Dade County has chosen to validate that which had already been done, which is to legalize Uber and Lyft in Miami-Dade County, after allowing them to have unfettered access to the for-hire industry in Miami-Dade County since Memorial Day of 2014."

Taxis can only operate in the county after buying one of a limited number of medallions. From 1999 to 2011, the county put 20 new medallions on the market each year, and sold them for $20,000 a pop through a raffle system. Though selling a medallion on the second market was completely legal, and according to the group, an average medallion could go for around $350,000. The group now says medallions are worth just $50,000. 

Often, those medallions are not owned by the drivers themselves, but rather by car owners who lease those cars out to drivers. Under the new laws, traditional taxis now only have a few main advantages over Uber or Lyft cars: they can pick up passengers without an app, and are allowed to congregate and wait for customers at the airport. (Under the new ordinance, Uber drivers can pick up someone at the airport, but only if they're ordered first. They will not be able to wait at the airport for a fare). Taxis also operate under set rates, and users are not charged surge prices. 

Miami-Dade taxi drivers will not be the first to sue a local government after Uber was legalized. 

Drivers in New York City (where medallions were once valued at around $1 million each) filed suit last November. That suit came just months after a judge ruled against taxis in a similar NYC lawsuit

Medallion holders in Philadelphia (where medallions used to exchange for half a million bucks) filed suit in January

Those cases are still pending, but so far a local government has not had to settle with taxi drivers. Though, in a statement, the medallion owners point out that Uber and Lyft themselves have settled several other lawsuits surrounding regulatory compliance and false representations. 

Miami-Dade County officials do not seem to be worried. 

"There's been legal action across the country. We'll take that on, too," Mayor Carlos Gimenez told The Miami Herald. 

The medallion owners remain hopeful. 

"In the United States of America, people have rights to own and protect their property," reads the statement. "Those rights ensure that the government can’t just come in and make your property worthless without paying for it. Those rights also ensure that the government can’t discriminate against you to the benefit of your competitor. These rights have made us a fair and prosperous country because they have been enforced over time." 

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