Martin v. Ampco Sys. Parking, CIVIL NO. 12-00598 SOM/RLP

CourtU.S. District Court — District of Hawaii
Writing for the CourtSusan Oki Mollway
PartiesABRAHAM MARTIN, Plaintiff, v. AMPCO SYSTEM PARKING, dba AMPCO EXPRESS, DOE DEFENDANTS 1-10, Defendants. AMPCO SYSTEM PARKING, Counterclaimant, v. ABRAHAM MARTIN Counterclaim Defendant.
Decision Date24 October 2013
Docket NumberCIVIL NO. 12-00598 SOM/RLP


AMPCO SYSTEM PARKING, Counterclaimant,
ABRAHAM MARTIN Counterclaim Defendant.

CIVIL NO. 12-00598 SOM/RLP


Dated: October 24, 2013




In November 2012, pro se plaintiff Abraham Martin, a taxi driver, asserted various federal and state-law claims against Defendant Ampco System Parking relating to Ampco's January 2012 increase of taxi drivers' fees at the Honolulu International Airport and the revocation of Martin's permit to serve airport customers.

Although Martin's First Amended Complaint does not clearly state his claims, the court construes it liberally as

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asserting civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Counts II to IV), or alternatively 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Counts II to III), and state-law claims for breach of contract (Count I), intentional infliction of emotional distress in connection with the federal claims (Count V), and either further breach of contract or a tort claim relating to Ampco's allegedly retaliatory revocation of his permit (Counts VI).

Ampco now moves for summary judgment on all counts. The court grants Ampco's Motion with respect to Counts I to V, and denies the Motion with respect to Count VI.


Defendant Ampco has the taxi concession at the Honolulu International Airport, operating an "on-demand" taxi service for arriving visitors and residents. Plaintiff Martin had been an on-demand taxi driver at the airport from 2005 to 2006, then again from February 2011 until his permit was revoked by Ampco on March 5, 2012. See First Amended Complaint at 2-4, ECF No. 9-29; ECF No. 58-19. Both parties agree that Martin is not an Ampco employee but an independent contractor. See Deposition of Abraham Martin at 147, ECF No. 58-14; Defendant/Counterclaimant Ampco System Parking's Memorandum in Support of its Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's Amended Complaint ("Memo in Support of Motion"), ECF No. 57-1, PageID # 1766.

There is no dispute that in February 2011, before beginning his second term as an on-demand taxi driver at the airport, Martin signed and completed a Taxi Operator's

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Application for Permit, Taxi Service at Honolulu International Airport ("Application"). See ECF No. 58-15; Deposition of Abraham Martin at 33, ECF No. 58-13. The Application includes a provision in which Martin agreed to:

abide by all the laws, rules (Hawaii Administrative Rules-HAR), and policies and procedures which govern "on-demand" taxis operating at the Honolulu International Airport. The policies and procedures as described in the "Procedures for Taxi Driver's Operating at the Honolulu International Airport" and "Rules and Penalties," including any and all subsequent additions."

ECF No. 58-15. In his Deposition, Martin testified that he read this provision and agreed to abide by it. Deposition of Abraham Martin at 33, ECF No. 58-13. The Application also states that, by signing it, Martin acknowledges that he received other documents pertaining to his duties and relationship with Ampco, such as the "Procedures for Taxi Drivers Operating at the HNL" ("Procedures"), "Code of Conduct for Taxi Drivers" ("Code"), and "2011 Rules and Penalties." ECF No. 58-15. Martin also filled out and signed an Application the following year, which ran from June 1, 2011, to May 31, 2012. See ECF No. 58-16.

On January 17, 2012, Ampco and the State's Department of Transportation Airports Division ("DOT") entered into a Concession Agreement for the Taxi Management Concession at the Honolulu International Airport ("Agreement"), see ECF No. 58-4, which raised the trip fee that Ampco would collect from each taxi driver for each on-demand trip from the airport. Id. at 4. On January 29, 2012, Karen Honda, a branch manager at Ampco, issued

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a memorandum "notifying all on-demand taxi drivers that effective February 1, 2012, the State of Hawaii, Department of Transportation, Airports Division revised the Taxi Driver and Taxi Vehicle Requirements; and that, in addition, the State increased the trip ticket cost to $5 per trip." Declaration of Karen Honda ¶ 7, ECF No. 58-1. Honda instructed all drivers that they had to complete a supplemental form pertaining to the additional requirements by March 1, 2012, to be eligible to continue to work as an on-demand taxi driver. Id. Martin did not complete the supplemental form. Id. 5 8.

On February 12, 2012, Martin allegedly formed an organization called the "Hawaii Taxicab Drivers Union" to "fight back [sic] any unfair, unjust conditions imposed on us [taxidrivers]." See ECF No. 58-17. One of the allegedly "unjust conditions" appears to have been the trip ticket increase. Referring to the Applications he signed, Martin alleges that "taxi drivers registered with Ampco have to sign a so-called contract" on a yearly basis, First Amended Complaint at 4, and that "Ampco ergo breaches contract when it changes the date to February 1, 2012 and illegally raises the ticket price from $4 to $5, unsupported by legitimate and proper process." Id.

Ampco alleges that during the last few weeks of February 2012, Martin, along with Bill Nguyen, the owner of a local taxi company, attempted to force other on-demand drivers to join Martin's union and his protest against Ampco. See Memo in Support of Motion, ECF No. 57-1, PageID #s 1767-68. Ampco

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submits the declarations of several individuals who say that Martin threatened them between late February and early March of 2012. See Declaration of Lisi T. Lavea, ECF No. 58-9; Declaration of Efren Y. Guerrero, ECF No. 58-10; Declaration of Reginald J. DeVeas, ECF No. 58-11; Declaration of Jane Yeh, ECF No. 58-12.

On February 29, 2012, sheriffs arrived at Ampco's curbside lot and questioned Martin about his alleged threats. See Declaration of Abraham Martin, ECF No. 69-3. Martin claims that Honda "called the Airport Sheriffs to lot A to arrest me." Id. According to Martin, a sheriff approached and "told me that someone reported that I 'threatened.'" Id. Martin denies having been violent or having threatened anyone and accuses Ampco of having called the sheriffs in retaliation for Martin's protests. First Amended Complaint at 3, ECF No. 9-29. Neither party claims that the sheriffs took any further action or arrested Martin.

Ampco says that Martin's allegedly threatening behavior at the airport continued. Lisi Lavea, an Ampco dispatcher, says that, on March 1, 2012, while allegedly attempting to get taxi drivers not to work at the airport, Martin drove by her and yelled, "You going die!" Declaration of Lisi Lavea, ECF No. 58-8. Lavea states that Martin then drove by her again and yelled, "You and Ampco going die!," then later jumped out of his car, approached her, and said, "I told you you and Ampco are dying!" Id.

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Honda investigated the incident on behalf of Ampco. See Declaration of Karen Honda ¶ 10, ECF No. 58-1. She says she spoke to several on-demand drivers who claimed they were threatened by Martin on or around March 1, 2012. Id. Allegedly believing the complaining drivers, Honda says she concluded that Martin had violated Ampco's Zero Tolerance policy for violence as expressed in Rule 2 of Ampco's Rules and Penalties procedure. Id. This rule, which Martin acknowledges having received with his Application, states, in relevant part:

In order to protect the health and safety of Ampco Express staff and all registered taxi drivers who work at the Honolulu International Airport, Ampco Express is putting all taxi drivers on notice that the Airport and Ampco Express have a Zero Tolerance Policy with respect to any type of creating, encouraging or participating in any type of disorder, fighting or violence, physical or verbal threats of bodily harm with or without a weapon at any Ampco Express location including but not limited to, Satellite Lots A & B, Curbside Stations 1 - 7, and the Ampco Express Office.
Any taxi driver(s) caught violating this provision will be suspended pending investigation and findings. Should there be a determination that this rule was in fact violated by one or both parties, based on the Zero Tolerance Policy, this would be grounds for revocation of your taxi permit to service the Honolulu International Airport.

2011 Rules and Penalties at 4, ECF No. 58-2. Ampco says that because Martin violated Rule 2's Zero Tolerance policy for violence and physical or verbal threats, Ampco revoked his permit, giving him leave to apply for reinstatement in one year.

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See Memo in Support of Motion, ECF No. 57-1, PageID # 1770; ECF No. 58-19.

Martin characterizes Ampco as having issued "a notice of revocation of work permit for one year, charging and accusing him of violation of its Rule 2 - Fighting - Violence - Weapons, just because he organized the strike at the State Capitol on that date [March 5, 2012]." First Amended Complaint ¶ 6. Martin says that he "of course did not commit any fighting, violence, and/or weapons...

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