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Sawink, Inc., Germantown Cab Company, and Rosemont Taxicab Co., Inc v. Philadelphia Parking Authority

January 6, 2012

SAWINK, INC., GERMANTOWN CAB COMPANY, AND ROSEMONT TAXICAB CO., INC., PETITIONERS
v.
PHILADELPHIA PARKING AUTHORITY, RESPONDENT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mary Hannah Leavitt, Judge

Argued: October 19, 2011

BEFORE: HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, President Judge HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, Judge HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge HONORABLE MARY HANNAH LEAVITT, Judge HONORABLE P. KEVIN BROBSON, Judge HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge HONORABLE JOHNNY J. BUTLER, Judge*fn1

OPINION BY JUDGE LEAVITT

Sawink, Inc., Germantown Cab Company and Rosemont Taxicab Co., Inc. (Petitioners) have filed a petition for review in this Court's original jurisdiction. Petitioners are taxicab companies operating under a certificate of public convenience issued by the Public Utility Commission and do not have medallions issued by the Philadelphia Parking Authority. As such, Petitioners have limited authority to operate within the City of Philadelphia. When some of Petitioners' drivers exceeded those limits, the Parking Authority impounded their cabs. Petitioners seek declaratory and equitable relief to enjoin the Parking Authority's impoundments, asserting that the legislature has not authorized this sanction for a territorial violation. Before the Court is Petitioners' request for summary relief, which we shall grant.*fn2

A taxicab with a certificate from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) can drive passengers into the City of Philadelphia but, as a general proposition, they may not thereafter provide further "call or demand" service within the City. 53 Pa. C.S. §5714(a), (d)(1)(i).*fn3 See also Germantown Cab Co. v. Philadelphia Parking Authority, 993 A.2d 933, 935 n.6 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2010), appeal granted, __ Pa. __, 14 A.3d 821 (2011).

The relevant facts in this case are not in dispute. Petitioner Sawink is authorized by the PUC to provide call or demand service anywhere in Pennsylvania, except Philadelphia. Petition for Review,

¶1. Petitioner Germantown Cab is authorized by the PUC to provide call or demand service in a territory that includes part of Philadelphia and part of Montgomery County. Id. at

¶2. Finally, Petitioner Rosemont is authorized by the PUC to provide call or demand service in a territory that includes part of Philadelphia and part of Delaware and Montgomery Counties. Id. at

¶3. In January 2011, the Parking Authority instituted a sting operation in which Authority investigators asked several cab drivers, employed by Petitioners, to provide them passenger service. Id. at

¶7. When the drivers agreed, their cabs were confiscated and impounded for operating outside their licensed territory. Id.

Petitioners responded to the impoundment with the instant petition for review, seeking declaratory and equitable relief. The petition acknowledges that Petitioners' cab drivers violated Section 5714 of what is commonly known as the Parking Authority Law, 53 Pa. C.S. §§ 5501-5517, 5701-5745. However, the petition asserts that the Parking Authority lacked the statutory authority to impound their taxicabs for these violations. Petition for Review, ¶¶14-19. Petitioners contend that Section 5714 limits the available sanctions to a summary offense or civil penalty. Id. at

¶16. In the alternative, the petition for review asserts that even if the Parking Authority had the statutory power to impound their taxicabs, it exercised that power in a way that violated their constitutional right to be free from unreasonable seizures. Id. at

¶23. Petitioners reason that even under the Parking Authority's construction of Section 5714, the Parking Authority is not required to impound vehicles. Id. at

¶24. Confiscation is constitutional only where it advances an agency's "reasonable community caretaking functions." Id. at

ΒΆ26. Petitioners assert that the Parking Authority has no responsibility for the quality of Petitioners' service; rather, the PUC has this responsibility. Accordingly, impoundment did not advance ...


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