Originally created 08/25/06

Taxi owners drop lawsuit



A group of independent taxi service owners has dropped its lawsuit against Augusta Regional Airport. The companies had alleged that city officials allowed Augusta Radio Cab Co. to maintain a monopoly on service at the airport, particularly lucrative during Masters Week.

The defendants in the case, which also included the city and the Augusta Aviation Commission, filed a motion to dismiss on July 7. According to Dan Hamilton, who represented Augusta-Richmond County and the aviation commission, the defense was awaiting a hearing when the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the case.

"The basis for our motion to dismiss was that some of the issues were moot because the contract that the plaintiff was complaining about was no longer in effect," Mr. Hamiltion said. "So we took the position that the lawsuit was completely frivolous."

He said the plaintiffs' allegations of anti-trust violations should not have been filed in state court.

"We contend that at least one of their claims is required to have been filed in federal court," Mr. Hamilton said.

Marietta attorney Harold Garcia represented the cab companies. He did not return numerous calls to his office Thursday.

The aviation commission voted to open airport contracts to any cab service operator on June 29. A plaintiff in the suit had claimed that the only reason the commission ended Radio Cab's 21-year grip on service was the threat of legal action, but commission Chairman Cedric Johnson said the plans were in the works before the suit was filed.

"The things that they had asked us to do - some of the things in the lawsuit - we had already put in progress before they ever sued us," Mr. Johnson said.

So far only Radio Cab and Checker Cabs have signed on to operate at Augusta Regional.

Michael Ray Moyer of Reliable Cab Co., a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said he is still unsure whether he will take up the airport's contract.

"I haven't made up my mind," Mr. Moyer said. "The cab business is so bad - I don't know."

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.

BACKGROUND: Seven independent cab companies filed a lawsuit June 6 against Augusta Radio Cab Co., alleging collusion and anti-trust violations.

DEVELOPMENTS

:

- On June 29, the Augusta Aviation Commission moved to end Radio Cab's exclusive contract with Augusta Regional. All cab companies were allowed to enroll in a $360 per car, six-month contract, with the airport. A deadline was set for July 7 to sign the contract.


- On July 7, the 5 p.m. deadline passed with only Radio Cab signing the contract. A motion to dismiss was filed by the defendants.


- On Aug. 8, the plaintiffs withdrew their lawsuit.

THEN THERE WERE TWO:


Radio Cab and Checker Cabs are the only companies so far to sign up to operate at Augusta Regional.