Judge paves way for taxi lawsuit

A judge has given taxi plate owners the go-ahead to proceed with a lawsuit claiming the city's decision to allow Uber and similar companies to operate legally was discriminatory.

Plate owners get green light to proceed with $215M class action over city's decision to allow Uber

Taxi plate owners in Ottawa can proceed with a $215-million class action claiming discrimination over the city's 2016 decision to allow Uber to operate legally, a judge ruled Tuesday. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

A judge has given Ottawa taxi plate owners the go-ahead to proceed with a lawsuit claiming the city's decision to allow Uber and similar companies to operate legally is discriminatory. 

Justice Robert Smith's decision, handed down Tuesday, acknowledges taxi drivers share the same concerns over the city's new rules. The ruling will allow members of the taxi industry to go ahead with a class action instead of pursuing the matter in court individually.

Uber began operating in Ottawa in 2014. In September 2016, the city amended its taxi bylaw by creating a new category of licence that legalized Uber's business model. 

Around this same time the taxi industry filed an uncertified class action against the City of Ottawa claiming $215 million in damages.

Claims of discrimination

The suit was filed by the parent company of Capital Taxi and Marc Andre Way, whose family is the single-largest owner of taxi plates in the city. It was the largest lawsuit ever filed against the city.

Taxi drivers claim the city is responsible for losses they suffered after Uber was legalized in Ottawa, according to an overview of the case. 

The plaintiffs allege that by welcoming Uber the city has discriminated against taxi drivers, many of whom are "members of minority groups." The plaintiffs also claim fees charged to them under the amended bylaw amount to illegal taxes. 

The city disagrees with the taxi industry's claims, but agreed with the court that a class action is the best way to proceed.

In its response to the lawsuit in 2016, the city said it has no obligation to protect the taxi industry from financial losses, and argued the claim of $215 million in damages is grossly exaggerated.