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Germantown Cab Co. v. Philadelphia Parking Authority

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

March 6, 2017

Germantown Cab Company, Appellant
v.
Philadelphia Parking Authority

          Submitted: November 10, 2016

          BEFORE: HONORABLE MARY HANNAH LEAVITT, President Judge HONORABLE ANNE E. COVEY, Judge HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, Senior Judge.

          OPINION

          MARY HANNAH LEAVITT, President Judge.

         Germantown Cab Company (Germantown Cab) appeals an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County (trial court) upholding the fine imposed by the Philadelphia Parking Authority, Taxicab and Limousine Division (Parking Authority). Germantown Cab contends that the trial court erred because the Parking Authority does not regulate limited service taxicabs operating pursuant to a certificate of public convenience issued by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC).

         On March 8, 2014, John Broggi, of the Parking Authority's Enforcement Department, issued a citation to Germantown Cab for not equipping one of its taxicabs with a protective shield, as required by Section 1017.5(b)(12) of Title 52 of the Pennsylvania Code.[1] Germantown Cab contested the citation.

         The hearing was scheduled for October 14, 2014. Thereafter, Germantown Cab requested several continuances, which were granted. When Germantown Cab did not appear at the March 11, 2015, hearing, rescheduled at its request, the Hearing Officer went forward with the hearing.

         Broggi, the sole witness, testified that on March 8, 2014, he saw a Germantown taxicab operating westbound on Spring Garden Street in Philadelphia. The taxicab's dome light was on, which indicated that it was available for passengers. When he pulled the vehicle over, he found that the taxicab had a "functioning meter in the taxicab in the cartridge on the dashboard. It appeared to be ready to go." Notes of Testimony (N.T.), 3/11/2015, at 7; Reproduced Record at 13 (R.R.__). Broggi found several problems. The taxicab did not have a sticker issued by the Parking Authority; the tire in the trunk was not covered; and it did not have a protective shield between the driver and passenger compartment. Broggi issued a citation solely on the absence of a protective shield.

         Based on this record, the Hearing Officer, on behalf of the Parking Authority, held that Germantown Cab failed to equip its taxicab with a protective shield as required by 52 Pa. Code §1017.5(b)(12). It ordered Germantown Cab to pay a civil penalty of $350.00, along with an administrative fee of $75.00, for a total of $425.00.

         Germantown Cab appealed to the trial court, and on February 25, 2016, the trial court heard argument.[2] Germantown Cab explained its appeal as follows:

[The Parking Authority has] jurisdiction to issue citations, but one of the threshold issues that this Court and the court below has to determine is whether or not under the particular fact pattern as they've set up their regulatory scheme, did it apply. Did it apply to this trip?

N.T., 2/25/2016, at 20.[3] In short, Germantown Cab did not dispute the factual findings made in the hearing before the Parking Authority.

         The trial court affirmed the Parking Authority. The trial court agreed that Germantown Cab was able to provide service in Philadelphia "as specifically provided for in [its] PUC certificate." Trial Court op., 5/13/2016, at 2. It found that Germantown Cab's PUC certificate allows

call or demand between points in the city of Philadelphia, bounded by School House Lane, Church Lane, Wister Street, Stenton Avenue, Northwestern Avenue, Ridge Avenue, Manatawanna Avenue, Hagys Mill Road, Port Royal Avenue, Cross Street, Shawmont Avenue, Umbria Street, Parker Avenue, Ridge Avenue, Walnut Lane, Wissahickon Avenue to points of beginning: and that portion of Whitemarsh Township, Montgomery County, bounded as follow: beginning on Ridge Pike, at the Springfield Township Line, northwest on Ridge Pike to Butler Pike, northeast on Butler Pike to the Whitemarsh Township line, southeast, along the Whitemarsh Township Line to Bethlehem Pike, south on Bethlehem Pike to Valley Green Road, northeast on Valley Green Road to the Whitemarsh Township Line, southwest along the Whitemarsh Township Line to Ridge Pike; and that portion of Springfield Township, Montgomery County, bounded as follows: beginning at the Springfield Township Line and Mermaid Lane, southwest on Mermaid Lane to Stenton Avenue, northwest on Stenton Avenue to the Springfield Township line, northeast, southeast, southwest and southeast along the Springfield Township Line to Mermaid Lane and from points in the said area to points outside the area and vice versa.

Id. at 2 n.2 (emphasis added). Accordingly, where Germantown Cab operates within the above-quoted certificate, the trial court held that the Parking Authority may not require Germantown Cab to install a protective shield. The trial court reasoned that it would impose an unreasonable hardship on Germantown Cab to comply both with regulation by the Parking Authority and with regulation by the PUC, particularly where they conflict. However, the trial court held that where a partial rights taxicab operates outside of its PUC certificate, the Parking Authority may impose its operational regulations upon the errant taxicab.

         The trial court discerned no dual regulation jurisdiction problem because Germantown Cab was not operating within the parameters set forth in its PUC license. As such, it could be held liable for not having a protective shield.

         Germantown Cab now appeals to this Court.[4] It contends that the trial court erred in holding that the taxicab was providing service outside of the scope of its PUC certificate. Accordingly, it cannot be fined for not having a protective shield.

         Section 5714 of the act commonly known as the Parking Authority Law, 53 Pa. C.S. §§5701-5745, sets forth the rights of limited service taxicabs as follows. Pursuant to a 2012 amendment, [5] Section 5714(d) states as follows:

(d) Other vehicles.-
(1) A vehicle which is not authorized by a certificate to provide call or demand service within cities of the first class but which is operated by the holder of a certificate of public convenience from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission authorizing call or demand service ...

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