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Z&R Cab, LLC v. Phila. Parking Auth.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

September 24, 2014


Page 510



Page 511


Dalzell, J.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff taxicab companies move for reconsideration of our June 4, 2014 Order (the " June Order" ) dismissing their complaint because the remedy they seek is beyond the power of a federal court to decide. For the reasons articulated below, we will deny their motion.

Z& R Cab, LLC and Zoro, Inc. (collectively " Z& R" ) originally brought suit to recover fees paid to the Philadelphia Parking Authority (" PPA" ) under a state statute Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Court held unconstitutional in February of 2013. In our June Order we denied the PPA's motion to dismiss in part, holding that the state court decision had retroactive application insofar as the Commonwealth Court found the statute violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution by failing to provide the taxicab companies with any procedure for challenging the PPA fee schedule. Z& R Cab LLC v. Philadelphia Parking Authority, F.Supp., 22 F.Supp.3d 498, 2014 WL 2518972 at *8 (E.D.Pa. June 4, 2014). But we also dismissed the plaintiffs' complaint because the question of remedy is one of state law and therefore must be entrusted to the courts of the Commonwealth in the first instance. Id. at *9.

Z& R now moves for reconsideration under Rule 59(e) to alter or amend our June Order under three alternative theories -- namely, that we erred in (1) dismissing the complaint for want of subject-matter jurisdiction when we should have retained jurisdiction under an abstention doctrine and stayed this matter, thereby retaining jurisdiction during the pendency of any state proceeding, Pl. Br. at 3-4; (2) not granting plaintiffs the refund remedy they sought, id. at 4-5; and (3) failing to request briefing on both subject-matter jurisdiction and abstention before dismissing the complaint, an error the plaintiffs now urge us to rectify by permitting such briefing, id. at 6-7. Defendant PPA responds that, whatever our grounds for dismissal, our decision was warranted because the Commonwealth courts alone enjoy the right to fashion a flexible remedy and federal courts are limited to ensuring any remedy conforms with constitutional Due Process. Def. Br. at 3. PPA also argues that the United States Constitution does not mandate a fee refund but only suggests that the remedy cure the underlying constitutional violation -- here, the PPA's Due Process violation in failing to provide the taxicab companies with a procedure for challenging the imposition of an annual fee. Id. at 9. Fashioning that remedy and considering its fiscal impact when applying the remedy retroactively are solely within the province of the Commonwealth courts, the PPA contends, and it urges us to deny the plaintiffs' motion. Id. at 16.

II. Procedural History

As we rehearsed in June, this case arises as a result of the Commonwealth Court's 2013 decision holding that the PPA's regulatory fee schedule and budgeting process, codified at 53 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. § 5707(b), violated both the Pennsylvania and United States Constitutions. MCT Transportation Inc. v. Philadelphia Parking Authority, 60 A.3d 899, 901 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2013), aff'd 81 A.3d 813 (Pa. 2013). In the state lawsuit, six suburban taxicab companies that provide limited service in Philadelphia contended that Section 5707(b) unconstitutionally deprived them of due process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment because the Parking Authority provided no procedures for challenging

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its annual regulatory fees, either before or after their imposition. For this and other violations, they sought equitable relief. MCT Transportation, 60 A.3d at 915-16. The Commonwealth Court agreed and held that the PPA must provide notice and a hearing " somewhere, at some stage in the proceeding, even if it be after the property itself is parted with," id. at 916 (quoting National Automobile Service Corp. v. Barfod, 289 Pa. 307, 137 A. 601, 602 (Pa. 1927)). The Court concluded that " [i]t is not the mere absence of a hearing remedy in Section 5707(b) that renders it unconstitutional. Rather, it is the bar to any relief erected by Section 5707(b) that effects the [D]ue [P]rocess violation." Id. at 917. " Because Section 5707(b) confers autocratic power upon the [PPA] to condemn property without [D]ue [P]rocess, it offends the due process provisions of the Pennsylvania and United States Constitutions." Id. at 919.

On October 22, 2013, two Philadelphia medallion taxicab companies filed the present class action lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 seeking, inter alia, a refund of all sums, with interest, paid under authority of the unconstitutional provision from 2004 to the present. Compl. at 5-6. They also sought a declaratory judgment that such fees were paid in violation of the United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and must be refunded, and they moved to enjoin the PPA from collecting any more such fees. Id. at 6. On December 9, 2013 the PPA moved to dismiss, arguing that plaintiffs' claims were predicated on a retroactive application of a judicial decision and that any remedy could have only prospective application.

On June 4, 2014, we granted PPA's motion in part and denied it in part. We held that the Commonwealth Court's conclusion -- that Section 5707(b) failed to " provide any procedure for challenging the Parking Authority's fee schedule, either before or after its adoption," thereby violating the Due Process clause of the United States Constitution -- applied retroactively. See Z& R Cab LLC, 2014 WL 2518972 at *7 (quoting MCT Transportation, 60 A.3d at 916). But we also held that we may not fashion the appropriate remedy because the United States Supreme Court held that the question of remedies under such circumstances is one of state law. Id. at *8 (citing James B. Beam Distilling Co. v. Georgia, 501 U.S. 529, 535, 111 S.Ct. 2439, 115 L.Ed.2d 481 (1991) (Souter, J., announcing judgment of the Court)). The Commonwealth must provide the plaintiffs with " a fair opportunity to challenge the validity of their tax obligation and a clear and certain remedy for any erroneous or unlawful tax collection." Id. (quoting McKesson Corp. v. Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, Dept. of Business Regulation of Florida, 496 U.S. 18, 38, 110 S.Ct. 2238, 110 L.Ed.2d 17 (1990) (internal quotation marks omitted)). Because state courts have the initial duty to determine relief, we held that we lacked subject matter jurisdiction and dismissed plaintiffs' complaint. Id. at *9.

On June 10, 2014, the plaintiffs filed a complaint in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas " seeking essentially the same relief" as in this action and based on the same grounds. Pl. Br. at 1; see also Z& R Cab, LLC, et al. v. Philadelphia Parking Authority, No. 1394 June Term 2014. The following day, they filed the instant motion.

III. Standard of Review

A motion for reconsideration, in this District governed by Local R. Civ. P. 7.1(g), is generally treated as a motion to

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alter or amend a judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). See Turner v. Evers, 726 F.2d 112, 114 (3d Cir. 1984). The purpose of a motion for reconsideration is to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly-discovered evidence. Max's Seafood Café ex rel. Lou-Ann, Inc. v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999) (internal citation omitted). Accordingly, a party seeking to alter or amend a judgment must show at least one of four reasons: (1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court entered judgment; (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact; or (4) the prevention of a manifest injustice. Id. (aggregating the latter two reasons under a single rubric); see also 11 Charles Alan Wright et al., Federal Practice & Procedure, § 2810.1 (3d ed. Sept. 2014).

Reconsideration is not permitted to allow " a second bite at the apple," see Bhatnagar v. Surrendra Overseas Ltd., 52 F.3d 1220, 1231 (3d Cir. 1995), nor to reargue matters the trial court already resolved or relitigate points of disagreement between the Court and the moving party, In re Avandia Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation, 2011 WL 4945713 at *1 (E.D.Pa. Oct. 14, 2011) (Rufe, J.) (internal quotation omitted). Because federal courts have a strong interest in finality, motions for reconsideration should be granted sparingly. United States v. Bullock, 2005 WL 352854 at *1 (E.D.Pa. Jan. 24, 2005) (Kelly, J.). As then-Chief Judge Bartle trenchantly put it, " A litigant that fails in its first attempt to persuade a court to adopt its position may not use a ...

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