Taxi owners file $1 billion lawsuit against Miami-Dade County after ride-sharing vote

County legalizes ride-sharing services during Tuesday meeting

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – A group of taxi owners filed a $1 billion lawsuit Wednesday against Miami-Dade County after commissioners passed a bill Tuesday legalizing Uber, Lyft and other similar services in a 9-2 decision.

"These laws completely devalue, and discriminate against, taxi medallions which the county has deemed to be intangible property," attorney Ralph G. Patino said in a statement. "In so doing, Miami-Dade County has chosen to validate that which had already been done, which is to legalize Uber and Lyft in Miami-Dade County, after allowing them to have unfettered access to the for-hire industry in Miami-Dade County since Memorial day of 2014. In these last 2 years, medallions that had a fair market value of $350,000 dollars have been devalued as a result of the ongoing activity of Uber and Lyft. They are now worth only $50,000 dollars."

The Patino & Associates law firm represents more than 2,100 taxi medallion holders.

Its clients are seeking $1 billion in compensation for violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

"This lawsuit is filed against Miami-Dade County to right a wrong and to make things fair," Patino said. "Neither the mayor of Miami-Dade County, nor the Board of County Commissioners can simply destroy a property right without paying fair compensation."

Over the past two years, Uber, Lyft and other like services have operated illegally in Miami-Dade County. 

Before Tuesday's meeting, there was concern that Uber could potentially face a snag over a couple of issues, including driver fingerprinting.

Kasra Moshkani, general manager of Uber South Florida, doesn't agree with the fingerprinting.

"Fingerprinting doesn't necessarily provide additional safety. It discriminates against minority communities and produces a hurdle for part-time drivers," Moshkani said.

Another issue was the fees Uber owes the county for illegally operating over the last 2 1/2 years.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said the fees amount to about $4 million.

"I hope to obtain a sizeable amount -- a high percentage of the fines -- as a settlement," Gimenez said.

Diego Feliciano, president of the South Florida Taxicab Association, said his association will continue to fight despite the vote.

"They've devalued the taxicab industry to a point where the only thing they haven't done is put the nails on the coffin, but they've got us in the coffin already," Feliciano said.

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