929 F.2d 339 (7th Cir. 1991), 90-1923, Pontarelli Limousine, Inc. v. City of Chicago

Docket Nº:90-1923.
Citation:929 F.2d 339
Party Name:PONTARELLI LIMOUSINE, INCORPORATED, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. CITY OF CHICAGO, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:April 08, 1991
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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929 F.2d 339 (7th Cir. 1991)

PONTARELLI LIMOUSINE, INCORPORATED, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,


CITY OF CHICAGO, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 90-1923.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

April 8, 1991

Argued Feb. 19, 1991.

Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc

Denied May 10, 1991.

Bertrand A. Rice, Charles Pressman, Chicago, Ill., for plaintiffs-appellants.

Wm. Carlisle Herbert, Hopkins & Sutter, Emily Nicklin, Office of the Corp. Counsel, Marc J. Chalfen, Randolph E. Ruff, William J. Raleigh, Dehaan & Richter, Morris G. Dyner, Dan Brusslan, Paul D. Streicher, Joel Miller, Fischel & Kahn, Chicago, Ill., for defendants-appellees.

Before WOOD, Jr., POSNER and MANION, Circuit Judges.

POSNER, Circuit Judge.

Ten livery companies licensed by the City of Chicago sue the City in this case, claiming that it denied them equal protection of the laws by refusing to allow them to use dispatchers' booths at O'Hare Airport, which is owned by the City. A jury awarded the plaintiffs more than $400,000 in damages, but the district judge then entered judgment for the City (the only remaining defendant) notwithstanding the verdict. 735 F.Supp. 782 (N.D.Ill.1990). The plaintiffs ask us to reinstate the verdict.

This litigation has its origin almost twenty years ago when the City, distressed by

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traffic congestion at O'Hare, established a livery dispatch system. Until then livery drivers had been accustomed to park their cars outside the terminals while they hawked within for "walk-up" passengers--arriving passengers who had not arranged for ground transportation in advance. The parked cars blocked traffic. The principal offenders were the suburban livery services, simply because most livery business at the airport is suburban. Taxi service (and now the rapid-transit system, the "subway" or "el" as it is loosely and inconsistently called) is cheaper than livery service for destinations in Chicago, but more expensive for most destinations in the suburbs. Under the livery dispatch system, drivers are forbidden to park at the terminal unless and until they have a passenger. Either they have a prior arrangement to pick up the passenger when he arrives or they wait in a satellite lot until summoned by a dispatcher stationed in a booth in the terminal. The dispatcher hawks fares the way the drivers themselves used to do, only without blocking traffic.

Because livery dispatch booths were considered unsightly and the dispatchers boorish and raucous, the City wanted to limit the scope of the livery dispatch system. To this end it confined the right to use the booths to dispatchers for suburban livery services. It was not that those dispatchers were considered more refined and mannerly than dispatchers for City-licensed services would have been, but that, for the economic reason already indicated, the principal demand for livery service among "walk-up" passengers was for service to suburban destinations rather than to destinations in the city. Two Chicago-licensed livery services, however, became affiliates of suburban livery services, and the dispatchers for those suburban livery services began to dispatch the occasional "walk-up" passenger seeking transportation to the city to Chicago-licensed livery services affiliated with the suburban services. This development precipitated in 1977 a lawsuit in Illinois state court against the City of Chicago by three Chicago-licensed livery services--not the plaintiffs in this case--that were not affiliated with suburban livery services. This was the Chicago Courtesy litigation. It was a triumph for the plaintiffs. In 1982 the court found a denial of equal protection, awarded damages of $1.9 million, and entered an injunction. The plaintiffs agreed to a reduction of the damages award to $1.2 million in exchange for the City's dropping its appeal. In 1986, in exchange for some further consideration, the plaintiffs agreed with the City to vacate the 1982 judgment and the state court did so.

This suit, filed in 1983, is essentially a reprise of the Chicago Courtesy litigation. The plaintiffs complain about the different access to the dispatch booths for suburban and urban liveries...

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