FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A class-action lawsuit filed Monday against Broward County on behalf of nearly 1,400 owners of county certificates of public convenience and necessity seeks more than $150 million in damages that resulted from the alleged unconstitutional transformation of the county's 40-year-old "vehicle-for-hire" structure.
"This is not a suit against any ride-hailing service," said Robert W. Kelley, a partner with the law firm Kelley/Uustal and lead counsel on the case. "We are seeking compensation from Broward County for unconstitutionally depriving the certificate owners of their property rights and for the devastating financial losses caused because any new ordinance will not provide a level playing field for all 'vehicles for hire' that operate in Broward County."
The suit alleges that the county commission's actions have caused the value of hundreds of county taxi cab certificates valued at $150,000 or more to be wiped out.
The number of certificates granted to vehicles for hire have been regulated for more than three generations.
According to the complaint, "Though its regulatory program, conduct, and support, Broward County promised the certificate owners that, subject to compliance with the obligations of the regulations, the county would provide exclusive rights and benefits that included: (i) exclusive rights to conduct for-hire passenger transportation and (ii) limited number of certificates based on population growth, i.e., the county will cap the total number of permits so as not to impair materially the property right or value."
"The county created and mandated a certificate system that generated tens of millions of dollars for the county," Kelley said. "Now it is time for the county to take care of their loyal certificate owners who have become victims of the county's changing business plan."
That business plan changed in April, when the county passed a new ordinance that lifted restrictions on the number of fire-hire vehicles that could operate in the county.
The plaintiffs in the suit said the county commission's conduct has jeopardized the value of the certificates.
"While the county commission has been unable to pass the most recent final amendments, their actions have already jeopardized the certificate program and created an uneven playing field for the average guy who invested his life savings into his certificate," Kelley said.
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