scorecardresearch Skip to main content

Taxi owners lose challenge of law on ride-hailing operations

Taxi drivers and owners have long-protested against ride-hailing operations.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/File

A federal judge in Boston on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit filed by a group of city taxi owners against the state, rejecting the owners’ claim that a new state law puts them at a competitive disadvantage with ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft.

In a 16-page order, US District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton wrote that the Boston Taxi Owners Association did not prove its members were harmed by the law.

“Plaintiffs have not alleged that the Commonwealth has revoked, suspended or impeded its ability to use its [taxi] medallions,” Gorton wrote.

“Their sole claim is that the loss of market exclusivity caused by the enactment of the new . . . statute has diminished the value of their medallions.


“Because plaintiffs have no rights to market exclusivity, they have failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”

The taxi owners had filed the lawsuit in September.

A lawyer for the association could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday night.

The group had argued in the lawsuit that the so-called Uber legislation, which Governor Charlie Backer signed into law last year, violates its members’ equal-protection rights because it prevents municipalities from regulating ride-hailing companies in the same way they do cabs.

The law leaves regulation of those digital companies solely to the state.

The taxi companies said in court filings that they now face an unfair dynamic in which they must follow strict city rules governing fares, vehicle design, background checks, insurance rates, and more, while drivers for Uber and other transportation network companies — called TNCs in the industry — do not.

“The two industries, taxicab and TNCs, provide essentially identical services, yet with the enactment of the TNC Law are being regulated in an entirely different manner from each other,” the cab owners wrote in their complaint.


But Gorton rejected the association’s arguments.

A spokesman for Baker, a named defendant in the lawsuit, did not respond directly to the dismissal but defended the law in a statement.

“Governor Baker, in collaboration with the legislature, was pleased to sign legislation establishing a regulatory framework for transportation network companies, that didn’t previously exist and prioritizes public safety including some of the strongest ride-for-hire background check systems in the nation,” said spokesman Billy Pitman.

The dismissal was the second legal setback for the taxi owners in recent weeks. Gorton threw out a related lawsuit in late December that the owners had filed against the City of Boston.

Adam Vaccaro of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.