Jefferson Parish taxi drivers have filed a lawsuit claiming UberX drivers are picking up fares illegally in the parish — the latest in a series of legal challenges to Uber’s operations in the New Orleans area.
The suit, filed in 24th Judicial District Court, comes a month after New Orleans cabbies filed a similar challenge and while Jefferson Parish officials are negotiating with the ride-hailing company in an effort to strike a deal that would allow it operate legally in the parish.
The suit claims there may be as many as 2,000 UberX drivers operating in Jefferson Parish and another 3,000 in the New Orleans area.
As with the New Orleans case, the Jefferson Parish suit is being brought by individual taxi drivers against eight specific Uber drivers they say have been caught picking up fares in the parish.
The suit says that is illegal under parish ordinances that require anyone driving a for-hire vehicle to have a “certificate of public necessity and convenience.” To receive that certificate, drivers must undergo a background check, be drug tested, pass a written test, meet insurance requirements and agree to the parish’s rules for fares.
Because taxi drivers must go through those certifications and abide by the rules while Uber drivers are not tested, the UberX drivers’ operations are “illegal, unethical, unscrupulous and substantially injurious” to the cabbies, the suit alleges.
The suit, which alleges that failing to meet those criteria amounts to an unfair trade practice, seeks to block the drivers from continuing to operate in Jefferson and seeks monetary compensation for the cabbies.
It notes that parish ordinances call for punishing people who violate parish rules on for-hire vehicles with a fine of up to $500 and up to six months in jail.
Going after individual UberX drivers appears to be a new strategy in the ongoing fight taxis are waging against the ride-hailing service’s entry into the local market.
A group of New Orleans taxi drivers filed a similar suit against UberX drivers last month. Because UberX is permitted by law to operate in Orleans Parish, that suit focuses on the fact that the UberX drivers do not have driver’s licenses that allow them to pick up fares, something it says is required by state law.
That case has not yet gone to trial, in part because attorneys have not yet served the suit to all of the plaintiffs.
Several of the attorneys working on the New Orleans case also are working on the Jefferson Parish suit.
The Jefferson lawsuit comes nearly a year after the Parish Council, under pressure from the taxi industry, shot down a proposed ordinance that would have allowed Uber and similar companies to operate legally in the parish. Months later, Uber announced it would be expanding into Jefferson, saying the parish had no laws that barred it from operating.
Pressure from the taxi industry prompted the parish to file a lawsuit itself, though it is now in negotiations with the company.
Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.