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Germantown Cab Co. v. Public Utility Commission

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

July 23, 2014

Germantown Cab Company, Petitioner
v.
Public Utility Commission, Respondent

 Submitted June 27, 2014

Appealed From No. C-2010-2175330. Public Utility Commission.

Michael S. Henry, Philadelphia, for petitioner.

John E. Herzog, Assistant Counsel, Harrisburg, for respondent.

Bryan L. Heulitt, Jr., Philadelphia, for amicus curiae Philadelphia Parking Authority.

BEFORE: HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, President Judge, HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge, HONORABLE ANNE E. COVEY, Judge.

OPINION

Page 411

PELLEGRINI, PRESIDENT JUDGE

Germantown Cab Company (Germantown) petitions for review of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (Commission) order adopting the Initial Decision of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ); dismissing Germantown's motion for a declaratory order that the Commission does not have exclusive jurisdiction over all of its operations; sustaining the Commission's Complaint regarding violations found in vehicles in Germantown's fleet; and imposing a $9,950.00 civil penalty. We affirm.

Germantown has a certificate of public convenience (CPC) to provide call or demand service in a limited area of the City of Philadelphia (City) and in parts of Montgomery County. As a result of an amendment to the Parking Authorities Law, commonly known as Act 94,[1] the

Page 412

regulation of taxicabs and limousines in the City changed from the Commission to the Philadelphia Parking Authority (Authority), whose power extends to persons or corporations providing these services between points in the City, from any point in the City to any point in the Commonwealth or outside, and from any point in the Commonwealth to any point in the City if the request for service is by call to a centralized dispatch system. 53 Pa. C.S. § 5714(c). The Commission retained jurisdiction over service outside the City of Philadelphia.

In August 2010, the Commission's Bureau of Transportation and Safety (BTS), now the Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement (I& E), filed a Formal Complaint alleging that annual inspections of Germantown's fleet designated to serve non-City passengers revealed 73 violations, including 25 mechanical violations; 15 meter violations; 22 passenger violations; and 11 other violations and sought a $9,950.00 civil penalty. (Reproduced Record (R.R.) at 2-12). Germantown filed an answer admitting that an inspection occurred, but denying the allegations in the Complaint. Before an ALJ, the Commission enforcement officers and their field supervisor testified regarding the violations that they observed. (R.R. at 22-214).

During cross-examination of one of the enforcement officers, Germantown questioned the Commission's jurisdiction to prosecute the violations " [b]ecause it's our position that either the Commission or the Authority has jurisdiction to regulate [Germantown] but not both." (R.R. at 85). While not raised in the pleadings, the ALJ, however, permitted Germantown to file a motion for a declaratory order pursuant to Section 331(f) of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Code[2] declaring that there is no dual regulation by the Commission and the Authority which involves conflicting tariffs and vehicle requirements. Germantown contended that since its franchise was awarded by the Commission, not the Authority, the Commission has exclusive jurisdiction and regulatory authority over partial rights of taxicab[3] companies such as Germantown under Act 94[4] and that this assertion of authority results in dual regulation The Commission's I& E filed preliminary objections to the motion which, among other things, argued that Germantown failed to provide a basis for its request to dismiss, and asserted that the issue of whether the Commission had concurrent jurisdiction with the Authority or exclusive jurisdiction was irrelevant to

Page 413

the instant enforcement action because the Commission's jurisdiction was conceded. ( Id. at 284).

The ALJ's Initial Decision dismissed Germantown's motion for a declaratory order, finding that the Commission had jurisdiction over the violation proceedings because Germantown has a Commission CPC; it submitted to the Commission's inspection, filed an answer to the violations, and participated in the hearing; and Germantown asserted that the Commission had exclusive jurisdiction. The ALJ stated that Germantown's " frustration concerning conflicting regulations is noted but that is not a reason to dismiss this complaint." (R.R. at 305). The ALJ determined that Germantown " has failed to provide compelling reasons for the issuance of a declaratory order," and " failed to submit reasons for the matter to be dismissed." ( Id. at 306). The ALJ sustained the Commission's Complaint and directed Germantown to pay a $9,950.00 civil penalty and desist from further violations of the Public Utility Code and the Commission's regulations.

Germantown filed exceptions to the ALJ's Initial Decision with respect to the motion for a declaratory order,[5] arguing that the dual regulation by the Commission and the Authority resulted in its charging rates in the City different from the tariff on file with the Commission thereby violating the Commission's regulations. Germantown also argued that the Commission and the Authority exceeded their statutory powers in executing a Jurisdictional Agreement in 2005 which improperly permits carriers to self-designate the vehicles that are subject to its regulation because it is " unworkable" dealing with conflicting regulations regarding meters and decals in the taxicabs. (R.R. at 317-319). Germantown asserted that under this dual regulatory system, only non-designated vehicles are subject to the Commission's jurisdiction, and the Commission did not establish ...


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