The Florida ridesharing lawsuit filed by two taxi companies and an individual against the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FDHSMV) is getting more contentious by the day.
Two motions have been filed by the plaintiffs – Florida taxi companies B&L Services Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, Capital Transportation Inc. of Tallahassee, and individual Jeremy Lynch – in the last week in response to FDHSMV’s Oct. 27 motion that the plaintiffs’ lawsuit should be dismissed.
The original lawsuit was initiated by the taxi companies as a means to get resolution to inquiries on the insurance requirements and regulations of the Florida ridesharing industry.
The FDHSMV had failed to respond to numerous requests from the Florida taxi industry over whether for-hire passenger transportation vehicles used by Uber, Lyft and other transportation network companies (TNCs) comply with minimum insurance required by Florida statutes, according to B&L Transportation President John Camillo.
The taxi companies claim their reason for bringing the complaint back in September was to even the playing field between their businesses and TNC companies, which are currently not required to have the same level of insurance as other for-hire vehicles currently operating in Florida.
The first of the most recent motions was filed Nov. 16 in response to the FDHSMV’s request last month to have the case dismissed by Judge George S. Reynolds III of the Second Judicial Circuit Court for Leon County after Reynolds ordered FDHSMV to respond to the complaint on Sept. 17.
FDHSMV claimed in its motion that the taxi companies had no merit to bring the complaint because they were not named parties in the case. The motion to dismiss by the FDHSMV also stated the plaintiffs had misinterpreted Florida’s financial responsibility law for for-hire vehicles defined in Florida Statute 324.032.
In addition, FDHSMV claimed in the motion that the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) was actually the state agency responsible for compliance and enforcement of the statutes “related to insurance requirements in Florida, including their interpretation.” FHDSMV contended the case should be dismissed because OIR was not party to the proceedings.
The plaintiffs fired back in their Nov. 16 reply that they do have standing to bring the action against FDHSMV because they are seeking interpretation of the statute “as it applies to all for-hire passenger transportation vehicles,” not just those of TNCs such as Uber and Lyft.
“There is no more proper party than Plaintiff Cab Companies to seek declaratory relief regarding Florida Statutes… Plaintiff Cab Companies are required to comply with these statutes because they are for-hire passenger transportation vehicles, and thus required to spend millions of dollars a year for liability insurance,” the plaintiff’s motion states.
On Nov. 20, the plaintiffs’ put forth another motion to the court requesting sanctions against FDHSMV for asserting “frivolous arguments” and that the plaintiffs be awarded attorney’s fees and costs. The motion also requested the court strike FDHSMV’s response if they do not withdraw it first.
The plaintiffs’ motion cites a written statement from FDHSMV Press Secretary Alexis Bakofsky to Insurance Journal on Nov. 2 regarding the FDHSMV’s motion to dismiss: “The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is responsible for enforcing any state statute that oversees financial responsibility for motor vehicles under the provisions of the current law, Chapter 324, F.S.”
“This article and statement by FDHSMV’s Press Secretary… in and of itself, should justify the Court entering an Order to Show Cause and opportunity for [FDHSMV] to be heard as to why they should not be sanctioned for the representations in their response on such a critically important matter of public interest, i.e., liability insurance for for-hire passenger transportation vehicles.”
Bakofsky responded to Insurance Journal‘s request for comment on the most recent motion with an e-mail Nov. 23 saying “As this is pending litigation, we cannot provide comment.”
The plaintiff’s motion also cites an Insurance Journal podcast with Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty on Nov. 5 in which he states the financial responsibility law is not under the purview of the Office of Insurance Regulation or under the Florida Insurance Code.
“We have repeatedly stated that the role of the Office is to determine if insurance coverage complies with the Insurance Code, not whether it complies with the financial responsibility law,” McCarty told Insurance Journal. “It is not within our statutory jurisdiction to express an opinion as to whether or not a given policy satisfies the requirement of the financial responsibility law. That is not under our jurisdiction. That determination lies within the agency authority of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.”
McCarty also stated FDHSMV’s motion to dismiss the complaint because the taxi companies are non-parties and therefore not under the jurisdiction of the court was an “interesting argument.”
In the meantime, all parties await a decision by Judge Reynolds to see if the case will move forward.
“The court has not given an indication on when it will rule. However, in my opinion, it is possible and likely that DHSMV will end up withdrawing their response. If they don’t, we have asked the Court to strike it,” said Ryan Andrews, co-counsel for the plaintiffs, in an e-mail to Insurance Journal. “Thankfully OIR spoke on the issue and was able to clear any confusion DHSMV may have had about the statutes they are required to administer and enforce.”
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