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Miadeco Corp. v. Miami-Dade County

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

April 10, 2017

MIADECO CORP., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          DARRIN P. GAYLES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS CAUSE came before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss Amended Class Action Complaint (“Motion”) [ECF No. 12], filed by Defendant Miami-Dade County (the “County”) on June 29, 2016. Plaintiffs Miadeco Corp., B&S Taxi Corp., and Checker Cab Operators, Inc. (“Plaintiffs”), filed their Response in Opposition . . . (“Response”) [ECF No. 30] on September 15, 2016. The County filed its Reply in Support . . . (“Reply”) [ECF No. 41] on November 16, 2016. The Court has carefully considered the parties' submissions, the record, and applicable law. For the reasons that follow, the Motion is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiffs initially filed their Class Action Complaint in the Circuit Court of the 11th Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County, Florida, on February 22, 2016. [ECF No. 1-2 at 5-30]. They then filed their Amended Class Action Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial (“Amended Complaint”) [ECF No. 1-2 at 41-68] on May 4, 2016. The County timely removed the action to this Court on June 1, 2016, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441(a) and (b) and 1446. [ECF No. 1]. The Amended Complaint advances claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of equal protection (Count I) under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 2, of the Florida Constitution; alleged violations of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article X, Section 6(a), of the Florida Constitution for inverse condemnation (Count IV); and alleged violations of the commerce clause (Count V) under Article I, Section 8, Clause 3, of the United States Constitution. In addition to damages and attorney's fees, the Amended Complaint seeks a declaratory judgment (Count II) and injunctive relief (Count III). This Court has original jurisdiction over the federal claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and supplemental jurisdiction over the state claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

         Plaintiffs are for-hire taxicab license holders in Miami-Dade County that are governed by the Miami-Dade County Code of Ordinances (“Code”).[2] Section 1.01(A)(3) of the Miami-Dade County Home Rule Charter expressly grants the Board of County Commissioners the power to “[l]icense and regulate taxis, jitneys, limousines for hire, rental cars, and other passenger vehicles for hire operating in the county.” Pursuant to this power, the County adopted Chapter 31 of the Code. The County's regulations of for-hire taxicabs are contained in Article II of Chapter 31. Particularly, “[i]t shall be unlawful for any person to use, drive or operate . . . any for-hire motor vehicle upon the streets of Miami-Dade County without first obtaining a Miami-Dade County for-hire license and maintaining it current and valid pursuant to the provisions of this article.” Code § 31-82(a). The license, or “medallion, ” is intangible property. See Code §§ 31-81(z), (aa). The County limits the total quantity of medallions but also occasionally auctions off new medallions. See Code § 31-82(o). The medallions are eligible to be resold, see Code § 31-82(r), with a secondary fair market value in January 2014 of approximately $340, 000.00. (See Am. Compl. ¶ 41).

         On May 3, 2016, the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners passed an Ordinance regulating the operation of new transportation network entities (“TNEs”) such as Uber and Lyft. The County's regulations of TNEs are contained in Article VII of Chapter 31. The County's provision regarding operations is as follows:

It shall be unlawful for any transportation network entity to begin operations, or allow transportation network entity drivers to provide transportation network entity services . . . upon the streets of Miami-Dade County, Florida, without first obtaining a preliminary transportation network entity license or a transportation network entity for-hire license and maintaining its current and valid pursuant to the provisions of this article. There shall be no limitation on the number of preliminary licenses or transportation network entity licenses that may be issued.

Code § 31-702(a). Accordingly, the Code does not require TNE drivers to obtain medallions under § 31-82(a) to operate within the County. Instead, TNEs have a completely separate and distinct regulatory system, with varying requirements to operate within the County from those imposed on taxicabs.[3] As a result of the new Ordinance, over 10, 000 TNE drivers now operate in the County. (See Am. Compl. ¶ 55). Plaintiffs allege that this increase in non-medallion holders has diluted the for-hire transportation market, impairing the value of Plaintiffs' intangible property. (See id.).

         Accordingly, in Counts I, II, and III of the Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that their equal protection rights have been violated by the County's arbitrary differentiation between the ordinance for taxicabs, which requires medallions and one set of regulations, and the ordinance for TNEs, which does not require medallions and has a completely different set of regulations. Plaintiffs allege that the TNE “Ordinance is unconstitutional because it arbitrarily treats Plaintiffs on less than equal terms than it treats the TN[E]s.” (See Id. ¶ 74). Even though the taxicab Plaintiffs and the TNEs are similarly situated, Plaintiffs contend that “the County has intentionally chosen to arbitrarily carve out an exception to laws that would otherwise apply to the TN[E]s in favor of creating new, special and less onerous laws, the effect of which is to discriminate against Plaintiffs in favor of the TN[E]s, ” a decision “not rationally related to legitimate governmental interest” but rather “irrational and wholly arbitrary.” (See Id. ¶¶ 77-78).

         In Count IV of the Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs allege an unlawful taking of their property without just compensation in violation of the 5th Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article X, Section 6(a), of the Florida Constitution. Specifically, Plaintiffs contend that “[t]hrough the Ordinance, the County has substantially interfered with the private property held by the Plaintiffs in that their for-hire licenses will be, and are, significantly devalued as a result of the legalization and/or regulation of the [TNEs]” and that “[t]he County's actions do not substantially advance a legitimate state interest.” (See Id. ¶¶ 92-93). Because the County has never offered to purchase Plaintiffs' medallions, nor paid for damages for their devaluation, Plaintiffs contend that the County is in violation of the state and federal constitutions.

         In Count V of the Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs allege a violation of the commerce clause because “[a]s a result of the Ordinance, TN[E]s are not subject to onerous regulatory requirements that are imposed upon the Plaintiffs and the putative class, ” and because “[t]here is no rational basis to treat TN[E]s differently from the Plaintiffs and the putative class.” (See Id. ¶¶ 97-98). Plaintiffs argue that through the Ordinance, the County “has chosen favored businesses to provide such services in an anticompetitive manner, and unconstitutionally deprived Plaintiffs and the putative class the opportunity fairly to compete with the TN[E]s, ” something Plaintiffs describe as a “hornbook monopolization strategy.” (See Id. ¶¶ 99-100). Plaintiffs allege that the “economic effects” of the County's Ordinance “are interstate in reach” because the “majority” of those who use for-hire transportation services in the County are “tourists who have travelled to Miami-Dade County from out-of-state.” (See Id. ¶ 101). And Plaintiffs contend that the County's requirement that Plaintiffs “charge mandated rates and pay mandated fees . . . impermissibly burden[s] and restrict[s] the free flow of interstate commerce.” (See Id. ¶ 102).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Although this pleading standard “does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, ' . . . it demands more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Id. (alteration added) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Pleadings must contain “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted). Indeed, “only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). To meet this “plausibility standard, ” a plaintiff must “plead[ ] factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         When reviewing a motion to dismiss, a court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and take the factual allegations therein as true. See Brooks v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Fla., Inc., 116 F.3d 1364, 1369 (11th Cir. 1997). However, pleadings that “are no more than conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide ...


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