Appeal from the Order of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission in the case of Bernard Seitlin v. Metro Transportation Company t/a Yellow Cab Company, Docket No. A-00103281C847.
Kathleen Herzog Larkin, with her, Victor A. Young and Zenola Harper, Blank, Rome, Comisky & McCauley, for petitioner.
Karen Oill Moury, Assistant Counsel, with her, Alfred N. Lowenstein, Deputy Chief Counsel, and Charles F. Hoffman, Chief Counsel, for respondent.
Judges Colins and Palladino, and Senior Judge Kalish, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Colins.
[ 105 Pa. Commw. Page 593]
Metro Transportation Company, t/a Yellow Cab Company (Metro), appeals an order of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (Commission) which imposed a $500 fine upon Metro for refusing taxicab service to a Bernard Seitlin, a visually handicapped individual, because he was accompanied by his guide dog. The pertinent regulation governing such service provides that:
Common carriers shall transport dogs trained for the purpose of guiding blind or deaf persons when accompanying such persons paying regular fare. The guide dogs shall be properly leashed and muzzled and shall not occupy a seat in the conveyance.
[ 105 Pa. Commw. Page 594]
In a complaint filed with the Commission, Mr. Seitlin averred the following events: a Metro cab responded to his call for service and pulled to the curb where Mr. Seitlin waited with his guide dog and a sighted friend. According to Mr. Seitlin, the driver then screamed "no mutts" and pulled away from the curb, even while his companion had opened the door of the vehicle and started to enter.
Metro did not answer the complaint and the matter proceeded to a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). At the hearing, Metro did not proffer testimony, did not deny Mr. Seitlin's allegations, cross-examine him or assert any defense. The ALJ issued a decision sustaining the complaint and deemed all allegations therein to be admitted by Metro by virtue of its failure to file a responsive pleading. The ALJ then directed that Metro be issued a letter of warning and ordered to cease and desist from further violations of the Public Utility Code, 66 Pa. C.S. §§ 101-3315. The Commission requested review of the ALJ's decision and, noting that "any turndown for service of a handicapped person is of itself a cruel, gratuitous indignity," subsequently sustained Metro's violation. In lieu of the letter of warning ordered by the ALJ, the Commission assessed a $500 fine against Metro and stated that "a violation of such nature [could] not be allowed to occur without adequate penalty." Metro's motion for reconsideration was denied by the Commission and its appeal of the Commission's order assessing the fine followed.
Upon appeal, Metro contends that: (1) the Commission's decision was not supported by substantial evidence because the record does not indicate that Mr. Seitlin's guide dog was "properly leashed and muzzled," in accordance with the language of the relevant regulation; (2) the Commission abused ...