Rocky Mountain Motor Co. v. Airport Transit Co.

Decision Date20 August 1951
Docket Number16388,Nos. 16387,s. 16387
Citation124 Colo. 147,235 P.2d 580
CourtColorado Supreme Court

Hodges, Vidal & Goree, Joseph G. Hodges, and Ralph Sargent, Jr., all of Denver, for plaintiff in error.

J. Glenn Donaldson, Abe Hoffman, Johnson & Robertson, all of Denver, for defendants in error.

HOLLAND, Justice.

For brevity, plaintiff in error, Rocky Mountain Motor Company, will be referred to as 'Yellow Cab,' and the defendants in error as 'Airport Transit' and 'City of Denver.'

Yellow Cab sought an injunction against Airport Transit 'for unlawfully interfering with its business' and for damages. The City of Denver was permitted to intervene. Temporary restraining order was granted and upon full hearing the court entered its final judgment denying all injunctive relief and entered an order severing the other issue on the question of damages on Airport Transit's amended counterclaim. Upon full hearing, and stipulation limiting the items of the claim, judgment was entered for Airport Transit in the sum of $1,798.77 and subsequently was by the court reduced to $1,638.84. The two cases are consolidated for this review.

Seventeen points are specified as error, which, summarized, consist of the contention that the court erred in sustaining the motion of Airport Transit to dissolve the temporary restraining order, and error as to certain items involved in the counterclaim.

As a terminal facility of the City and County of Denver, for the development, promotion and accommodation of air commerce and aerial navigation, a municipal airport, now known as 'Stapleton Field,' was established by the city council of the City of Denver by ordinance No. 128 in the year 1929; and by said ordinance was placed under the control and management of the department of improvements and parks of the City of Denver.

After the establishment of the airport, and for approximately twenty years, down to the time of the commencement of this action, Yellow Cab, without a written lease, contract or permit from the city, enjoyed what was in effect an exclusive concession, consisting of a small office in the administration building at the airport, for which it paid a nominal rental to the City of Denver, and in consequence thereof, handled practically all of the air-line taxicab business to and from the airport.

About a year prior to 1949, the manager of improvements and parks of the City and County of Denver determined that the transportation facilities to and from the airport were not all that could be desired and thereupon requested the submission of bids on forms prepared to obtain data for that purpose. The succeeding manager of improvements and parks canvassed and rejected the bids. A second invitation was prepared and advertised and bids were again received, canvassed and rejected. Yellow Cab was a bidder on both occasions. With this condition prevailing, the city council in 1949, by special ordinance No. 19, provided for a special class of limousine and taxi service to and from the airport and for a taxicab concession, and provided for the issuance of a revocable permit, granting the permittee 'a license for limited taxicab service under which each trip for the transportation of any passenger must either originate or terminate at Stapleton Airfield * * *.'

This ordinance was passed by the city council April 4, 1949 and was signed and approved by the Mayor on that date. Airport Transit received a revocable permit for the operation of a taxicab and limousine service as provided by the ordinance on April 11, 1949. This followed the advertisement for bids for the operation of such taxicab and limousine service by the manager of improvements and parks; and the permit stated that upon the consideration of the bids received, the bid of the Airport Transit was the most favorable. The permit set out the rates to be charged for the limousine and taxicab service and the compensation to the city, stated as being $100 per month or ten per cent of the gross receipts per month, whichever amount was greater, coupled with a requirement that the permittee was to begin operations within sixty days from the date of the granting of the revocable permit. On April 18, Airport Transit commenced its taxicab and limousine operations.

The next day Yellow Cab filed its complaint seeking a temporary restraining order against the operations of the Airport Transit pending hearing on temporary injunction. After hearing, the temporary restraining order was issued on that date as of five o'clock P.M. On April 28 and 29, a hearing was had on Airport Transit's motion to dissolve the temporary restraining order and on Yellow Cab's motion for a temporary injunction. The motion to dissolve the temporary restraining order was granted and motion for temporary injunction denied and an order entered authorizing Airport Transit to commence operations as of eight o'clock A.M. April 30, 1949. The next hearing for permanent injunction consumed six days and was concluded on June 11, 1949 by the court's denial of a permanent injunction, and its announcement that the matter of damages would be taken up at some future date. The hearing on the question of damages was held October 11, 1949 on the amended counterclaim of Airport Transit, which resulted in the judgment hereinbefore set out, resulting from the suspension of Airport Transit's operations by the temporary restraining order.

Several contentions of Yellow Cab may be epitomized into the general contention that the operations of Airport Transit were unlawful and that Yellow Cab's business was being interfered with and injured by an unlawful competitor which it had the right to enjoin; that Airport Transit's operations were unlawful because not legally authorized, due to noncompliance by the city authorities with Ordinance No. 165, in that the manager of Safety held no public hearing as to the necessity, and further that the title to Ordinance No. 19, Series of 1949, under which the revocable permit was issued to Airport Transit, was not broad enough to include the issuance of a limousine or taxicab permit.

Airport Transit stands squarely on the proposition that there was full compliance by the city authorities in the issuance of its permit under Ordinance No. 19, Series of 1949, which has sufficient title and which the city council had full power to grant.

The City of Denver, as intervener, disclaims all interest or concern about the controversy between Airport Transit and Yellow Cab on the counterclaim of Airport Transit and the judgment thereon. It properly asserts an interest directed toward the assuring of efficient transportation to and from its airport facilities, which it claims it has the right to control, and that Ordinance No. 19, Series of 1949 is an expression of the city council directed to that end. It is the city's contention: (a) That the city has power to give an exclusive right to a stand at the airport and, incidental thereto, transport passengers to and from that stand over the streets of the city and the roadways of the airport; (b) that a competing company, having a license to do business indiscriminately over the streets of the city, does not have a private right to obtain an injunction to prevent competition; (c) that the title to Ordinance No. 19 is adequate, and that Yellow Cab is estopped to question its sufficiency because it submitted a dib for the permit in compliance with the provisions of the ordinance; (d) that under Ordinance No. 19, the city council and the manager of improvements and parks is empowered to accept that which, in their judgment, they consider the best bid for the taxicab stand concession, and that no public hearing on the question of convenience and necessity is required under the ordinance.

This dispute centers around the interpretation and application of two city ordinances concerning motor vehicle operations for hire, and may well be determined if by reasonable construction the two ordinances are found to be harmonious and not conflicting, to obtain the legitimate ends or intention of each. That the right and power to control motor vehicle operations on the streets of Denver and its property and issue revocable permits in connection therewith is vested in the city council is not disputed. People ex rel. Foley v. Stapleton, 98 Colo. 354, 56 P.2d 931.

One of the ordinances involved is Ordinance No. 165, Series of 1947, known as the general taxicab ordinance. In substance this ordinance was intended to regulate the general taxicab business within the City and County of Denver, and vested in the manager of safety the authority to determine what individuals or companies should operate such taxicabs, with the limitation that the total number of taxicabs upon the streets at any one time should not exceed three hundred. It further provides that the manager of safety, who, under the charter, is the general licensing authority, could exercise his discretion in the issuance of taxicab licenses, after a public hearing, to determine the matter of public convenience and necessity. Under the provisions of this ordinance, Yellow Cab obtained what is designated as a 'master license' and under such license, according to the record, operated approximately ninety-nine taxicabs.

Clearly within its power and authority the city council, two years later, determined that special provision should be made for taxicab and limousine transportation to and from the airport, known as Stapleton Field, which is owned in fee by the city, including the roadways thereon. In furtherance thereof, it enacted Ordinance No. 19, Series of 1949, which, by its terms, clearly indicates that it is absolutely distinct from the general taxicab Ordinance No. 165, and is special in all of its features. Due to its length, this opinion will not be encumbered by a quotation of the full ordinance, but the sections thereof that are here pertinent...

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11 cases
  • Continental Bus System, Inc. v. City of Dallas
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Texas
    • December 17, 1974
    ...too, upheld an exclusive ground transportation concession that had been challenged by a competitor. Rocky Mountain Motor Co. v. Airport Transit Co., 124 Colo. 147, 235 P.2d 580 (1951). In passing, I would add a word about the curious effect of the four cities' anti-bus ordinances quoted in ......
  • Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority v. Stewart
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