Toronto

Judge tosses taxi group's $1.7B suit against Toronto, in wake of Uber's rise

A $1.7 billion proposed class action law suit from taxi licensees against the city of Toronto was thrown out by a judge this month.

Licences now worth $4,500 after plummeting from a high of $380K

Taxi drivers assemble for a protest against ride-sharing app Uber, in Toronto, on June 1, 2015. A $1.7 billion proposed class action law suit from taxi licensees against the city of Toronto was thrown out by a judge this month. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

A $1.7 billion proposed class action law suit from taxi licensees against the city of Toronto was thrown out by a judge this month.

Lawrence Eisenberg, Behrouz Khamza, and Sukhvir Thethi were suing the city for losses suffered after ride-hailing service Uber began operating in Toronto. 

"I'm going broke. It's simple," said Eisenberg. He currently owns three licences — also known as a taxi plate. Khamza owns two and Thethi has one. 

Eisenberg says at one point, they were worth $380,000 and brought him in $4,500 per month. Today, he says their worth has plummeted to about $10,000 and even less per month.  

"I'm getting $200 out of my three licences. Two of them are on the shelf."

In addition, he still has to pay for the licences' renewal notices, costing him $1,126.

Lawrence Eisenberg said the licenses were supposed to act as his pension. At one point, they were worth $380,000. Today, their value has plummeted to about $4500. (CBC)

Eisenberg says it's the city's responsibility to protect taxi licensees from the financial turbulence. Yet, the court ruled otherwise.

"Neither the City of Toronto Act nor the Toronto Municipal Code require the City to protect the interests of taxicab owners," said Justice Paul Perell of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in his ruling.

30 days for appeal

Many drivers are feeling the financial pressure because these licences were supposed to be their pensions. 

"If we don't get our pensions from the city, who are we going to get it from?" says Eisenberg.

Eisenberg holds a taxi plate, or licence. He began as a driver for his father in 1964. After his father died in 1966, he entered the taxi business. (CBC)

A similar decision was made in Ottawa last year when the judge tossed out the case by cab drivers against the city. 

Toronto says it's reviewing the court decision and will determine next steps as appropriate. 

In the meantime, Eisenberg and the other plaintiffs have until mid January to appeal the court's decision — 30 days from the day the ruling was made.

"It's unfortunate that the Christmas season and the New Year's season is affecting it," says Eisenberg but adds there will be more coming next month with regards to their decision. 

About the Author

Ania Bessonov is a journalist with CBC Toronto and Ask CBC News.

With files from Ramna Shahzad and Myriam Eddahia

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