An Update on the Taxi Discrimination Lawsuit, by Eric Bridges

On Sept. 3, 2015, Judge Maurice Ross (the judge presiding over ACB’s and Eric Bridges’ lawsuit against Yellow Cab, Grand Cab, Pleasant Taxi and Elite Cab) denied all four defendants’ motions to dismiss the lawsuit.  The cab company defendants had raised several issues in an attempt to dismiss or narrow the lawsuit, and the court rejected each of the defendants’ arguments.  The arguments that the court rejected were:

  1. Standing to Sue for Eric – The defendants had argued that Eric did not have standing to sue because he could not demonstrate that he planned to use a cab from these specific companies in the future. The court found that the prior testing by the ERC and the D.C. Taxi Commission (along with the WUSA9 report) demonstrated that the discriminatory practice was widespread and that Eric did not need to show an intent to use a specific defendant’s cab company in order to allege a threat of future harm.
  1. Standing to Sue for ACB – The defendants argued that ACB did not have standing to sue on behalf of its members. The court rejected this, finding that ACB can sue on behalf of its membership in addition to just Eric.
  1. Sufficiency of the Pleadings – The defendants argued that we had not alleged sufficient facts to give rise to an inference that the reason the taxis passed Eric was because he is blind and had a service animal. The court found that we had alleged more than sufficient facts, based on the prior studies we cited about the problem and the facts that were specific to the four incidents. The court believed it to be more than reasonable to infer that the taxis passed Eric because he had a service animal.
  1. Statute of Limitations – The defendants tried to argue that Eric had not filed a charge within the requisite one year from the time of the incident. The court rejected this argument, noting that Eric had contacted OHR well within the one-year time frame.  They also argued that ACB’s claims were not timely because it had never filed an OHR charge and so had not filed a lawsuit within one year of the incident. The court rejected this argument too, holding that ACB could take advantage of the fact that its member (Eric) had filed within the one-year time, and that ACB could “piggy-back” off Eric’s charge. This is a very important holding (and is likely the first of its kind in the nation) – this will have ramifications in many future discrimination cases in that an organization can now come into a case after the statute of limitations may have expired, so long as one of its members had correctly satisfied the statute of limitations.
  1. Negligence Claims – The court held that even if our ADA and D.C. Human Rights Act claims ultimately fail, we also have viable negligence claims against the cab companies related to the negligent hiring and supervision of their drivers.

In sum, this is a complete victory on these motions – we will now move into discovery with all of our claims alive and intact.  This decision will also have precedential effect on future discrimination cases.
 
If you would like to read the judge’s orders on the motion to dismiss, visit www.acb.org/taxiruling.