993 F.Supp.2d 460 (S.D.N.Y. 2014), 13 Civ. 3690 (KBF), El-Nahal v. Yassky

Docket Nº:13 Civ. 3690 (KBF)
Citation:993 F.Supp.2d 460
Opinion Judge:KATHERINE B. FORREST, United States District Judge.
Party Name:HASSAN EL-NAHAL, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff, v. DAVID YASSKY, et al., Defendants
Attorney:13 Civ. 3690 (KBF) For Hassan El-Nahal, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff: Daniel Lee Ackman, Daniel L. Ackman, Esq., New York, NY. For David Yassky, Commissioner Matthew Daus, Michael Bloomberg, The City Of New York, Defendants: Sherrill M. Kurland, New York ...
Case Date:January 29, 2014
Court:United States District Courts, 2nd Circuit, Southern District of New York
 
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Page 460

993 F.Supp.2d 460 (S.D.N.Y. 2014)

HASSAN EL-NAHAL, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,

v.

DAVID YASSKY, et al., Defendants

13 Civ. 3690 (KBF)

United States District Court, S.D. New York

January 29, 2014

For Hassan El-Nahal, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff: Daniel Lee Ackman, Daniel L. Ackman, Esq., New York, NY.

For David Yassky, Commissioner Matthew Daus, Michael Bloomberg, The City Of New York, Defendants: Sherrill M. Kurland, New York City Law Department, New York, NY.

OPINION

KATHERINE B. FORREST, United States District Judge.

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MEMORANDUM DECISION & ORDER

On May 31, 2013, plaintiff Hassan El-Nahal filed a complaint against defendants David Yassky, Commissioner Matthew Daus, Michael Bloomberg, and the City of New York alleging that the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) has violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, as well as Article I, § 12 of the New York State Constitution, by using a global positioning system (GPS) device to track plaintiff's whereabouts without probable cause or a search warrant. (Complaint ¶ ¶ 113-120, ECF No 1.) On August

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21 and September 24, 2013, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 11, 17.) For the following reasons, defendants' motion is GRANTED and plaintiff's motion is DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

The following facts are undisputed, unless indicated otherwise. The Court recites only those facts relevant to its decision.

The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) is the agency charged with regulating and supervising the transportation of persons by licensed vehicles for hire in New York City. (Defs.' Statement Pursuant to Rule 56.1 (" Defs.' 56.1" ) ¶ 1, ECF No. 33.) The TLC's responsibilities include regulating taxicab safety, design and comfort; reasonable rates of fare for taxi service; and the licensing of taxi drivers. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ ¶ 2-5.) The TLC has the right to inspect books and records and to require the submission of any reports that it deems necessary. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 6.)

Since 1992, the TLC rules have required a TLC-licensed New York City taxi driver to create and maintain a trip record. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 7.) Until recently, drivers were required to keep a trip record in which they entered certain information, including: (1) at the start of each trip, the date, time, specific location, and number of passengers; (2) on completion of the trip, the destination, time, amount of fare, and any tolls paid; (3) the taxi's readings at the end of the shift; and (4) any toll bridges or tunnels used by the driver, whether or not with a passenger. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 8.)

The TLC currently mandates that all New York City taxis must be equipped with a Taxicab Technology System (" T-PEP" or " TTS" system), which includes a GPS, a credit-card device, and monitors for the driver and passengers, and which automatically collects certain trip information, including the taxi license number, the taxi driver's license number, the location of trip initiation, the time of trip initiation, the number of passengers, the location of trip termination, the time of trip termination, the metered fare for the trip, and the distance of the trip. (Ackman Decl. Ex. 2, at § 3-06(b), ECF No. 18; Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Statement in Supp. of His Mot. for Summ. J. (Pl.'s 56.1" ) ¶ ¶ 3, 5, ECF No. 20; Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 9.)1 Taxi drivers are required to create handwritten trip records if the T-PEP system fails to operate properly. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 10.)

Taxis are also equipped with a meter that displays the fare, surcharges, and the rate codes. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 11.) There are six rate codes, including trips within the city, trips to and from airports, trips beyond the city limits and to other counties, negotiated fares, and group rides. (Id.) At the start of each trip, the driver sets the

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rate by pushing a button on the meter. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 11.)

Among other requirements, taxi drivers are prohibited from charging a fare above the approved rates. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 13.) Penalties apply to various violations of the rules, including overcharging. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 14.) When a taxi driver is charged with a violation of any TLC rule, the TLC may, in its discretion, impose a penalty of license revocation, license suspension of up to six months, and/or a fine. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ ¶ 15-16.)

In 2007, before the taxi technology rules took effect, plaintiffs filed two lawsuits challenging the new rules and seeking to enjoin them from taking effect. (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ ¶ 9, 13.) In both cases, the district courts rejected the drivers' claims on the basis that no search had occurred for purposes of the Fourth Amendment, because drivers had no legitimate expectation of privacy in any of the information that would be collected under the TLC T-PEP rules. (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ ¶ 11, 13 (citing Buliga v. New York City Taxi & Limousine Comm'n, No. 07 Civ. 6507 (DLC), 2007 WL 4547738 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 21, 2007), aff'd, 324 F.Appx. 82 (2d Cir. 2009) (summary order); Alexandre v. New York City Taxi & Limousine Comm'n, No. 07 Civ. 8175 (RMB), 2007 WL 2826952 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 28, 2007).)

Also in 2007, before the technology mandate took effect, the TLC issued a " Statement of Basis and Purpose," which stated the reasons for its technology and GPS mandate. (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 16.) The TLC made no mention in this statement (or elsewhere) of using GPS data to investigate or prosecute taxi drivers. (Pl's 56.1 ¶ 17.) On its website, the TLC stated that it would use the T-PEP technology to provide customer service improvements, and that it was " replacing the current hand-written trip sheets with automatic electronic trip sheets which are limited to collecting pick-up, drop-off, and fare information, all of which are already required." (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 17.)

On March 12, 2010, the TLC issued an e-mail press release in which it claimed that 35,558 taxi drivers had illegally overcharged at least one passenger over a 26-month period by manually switching the taxi meter from Rate Code 1 (the default setting used for trips within the city) to Rate Code 4 (the rate that applies to out-of-city trips). (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 19.) The TLC stated that it used " GPS technology installed in taxicabs" to make this discovery. (Id.) On March 14, 2010, the TLC issued a revised press release that stated that 21,819 drivers had overcharged passengers. (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 24.)

On or around January 3, 2012, the TLC sent a letter to plaintiff instructing him to appear at a hearing concerning overcharges. (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 36.) Plaintiff was found guilty after a hearing, and the ALJ imposed fines totaling $550 and revoked his license. (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 46.) The OATH Taxi and Limousine Tribunal appeals board reversed that ruling and reinstated plaintiff's license. (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ ¶ 47-48.) On remand, the TLC reinstituted some charges against plaintiff. (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 52.) Plaintiff was again found in violation and his license was again revoked. (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 53.) On appeal, the appeals tribunal again reversed. (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 54.) Finally, plaintiff was found guilty for a third time, he again appealed, his conviction was again reversed, and his license was again restored. (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ ¶ 55-57.)

Plaintiff claims, " To this day, with possibly one or two exceptions, the TLC has not produced any claim by any actual passenger that he or she was overcharged." (Pl.'s Mot. 9; Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 31.)

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B. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed his complaint on May 31, 2013. (ECF No. 1.) On August 21, 2013, defendants moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. (ECF No. 9.) On September 13, 2013, the Court deemed that motion a motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 16.) That motion became fully briefed on December 6, 2013. (ECF No. 36.) On September 24, 2013, plaintiff filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 22.) That motion became fully briefed on November 15, 2013. (ECF No. 34.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment may not be granted unless a movant shows, based on admissible evidence in the record, " that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."...

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