Taxis And Workers' Compensation


Sarasota, FL (CompNewsNetwork) - I drove a taxi when I lived in New York City. I thought it was a fast way to make some serious money, and I did. I owned a NYC yellow cab "medallion" back in the mid 80's. It was valued at about $125,000 at the time that I sold it in 1991. Today, the price of an individual NYC taxi medallion is about $588,000. It was my first experience in owning and running a business. I got to meet many interesting people and celebrities. Unlike the stereo-typical surly character or turban wearing immigrant portrayed by the media, many drivers actually speak excellent English. Check out “Cash Cab” on the Discovery Channel sometime!

Although it can sometimes be an exciting and fast-paced job, it is also a very dangerous one. I was fortunate enough not to get robbed, injured or murdered during the 9 years I drove a taxi. But many others may not have been so fortunate. In most states, taxi drivers are usually covered by workers' compensation insurance if they work or lease from a fleet corporation. There have been some unusual court opinions involving the taxi industry. We thought we'd hail a few cabs from our case law library.

Alam v. Taxi Wheels to Lease Inc., Supreme Court, Kings County, (2007) New York, Slip Op 51377(U).
Defendant Taxi Wheels is an entity licensed by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to manage taxi medallions, and was the managing agent of the taxicab operated by plaintiff and its title owner. Defendant Matilda Prempeh was the owner of the medallion affixed to the taxicab which is the subject of this action. The subject accident in this personal injury action occurred on December 9, 2002, at approximately 11:45 pm. Plaintiff alleges that on that day he was driving the taxicab with a passenger in the back. The passenger alerted plaintiff to a loud noise which was coming from the back of the vehicle, near where he was sitting, and asked plaintiff to stop the vehicle. Plaintiff stopped the vehicle and his passenger got out, and fled the scene. Plaintiff opened his door, and was exiting the vehicle, when the left rear (driver's side) tire exploded, knocked him to the ground and blinded him. Subsequent to the occurrence of the subject accident, plaintiff applied for and received Workers' Compensation benefits in connection with the injuries he sustained in the accident. Plaintiff's claim was for injuries to his head, neck, left shoulder and both eyes, for loss of vision.
Taxi Wheels contends that it can not be found liable under a theory of products liability because Taxi Wheels did not manufacture, sell or distribute either the taxicab or the tire that exploded. Taxi Wheels also contends that it can not be found liable under a theory of negligence because Taxi Wheels had no duty to maintain the taxicab or its tires, and could not have known of any defect in the tire which exploded. The court ordered that the defendant Taxi Wheels' motion to dismiss granted

Herman Davila v. Yellow Cab Co,. Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, (2002) Illinois, No. 1-01-4366.
In a first amended complaint, Davila alleged he was struck and injured by a taxicab owned by Yellow Cab and negligently operated by defendant Thomas Williams on October 31, 1996, in the vicinity of the intersection of LaSalle and Lake Streets in Chicago. Davila alleged that he was a State of Illinois police officer standing onLake Street due to traffic congestion when he was struck by Williams' cab and dragged for several feet. Davila also alleged the incident caused him severe and permanent bodily injuries, pain and suffering, medical expenses, and loss of his usual occupation. Davila complained that Yellow Cab was responsible for his damages due to a principal/agent or master/servant relationship with Williams. In a separate count, which was dismissed and is not subject to this appeal, Davila alleged that Yellow Cab had negligently entrusted Williams with the taxicab. Yellow Cab answered and moved for summary judgment, contending that its written contract with Williams established he was an independent contractor and that Williams' conviction for battery, an intentional crime, in connection with the incident at Lake and LaSalle Streets established Williams was not acting within the scope of any agency or employment relationship. Yellow Cab concluded it was therefore not responsible for Williams' actions. The court concluded that despite the lease agreement's employment relationship disclaimer, the record clearly indicated that Yellow Cab's interest in its cabs did not cease with their leasing, but extended to their operation. and that Yellow Cab was in the business of operating a fleet a cabs for public use. Accordingly, there was sufficient evidence to conclude the cab driver was an employee of Yellow Cab.

Argay McFarland v. Lindy's Taxi, Inc. Appellate Division, Third Department, (2008) New York Slip Op 02718.
In August 2003, claimant, while employed as a taxi driver, was parked in a parking lot on a meal break when he was asked for assistance by a fellow motorist who had a dead battery. As claimant was placing jumper cables on the battery, the battery exploded, causing claimant to lose his left eye. A Workers' Compensation Law Judge ruled that claimant's assistance of the stranded motorist was a personal act, outside the scope of his employment, and therefore his injury was not an accident within the meaning of Workers' Compensation Law § 10 and disallowed the claim. The Workers' Compensation Board modified the Workers' Compensation Law Judge's decision to the extent of finding that claimant's injury did not arise in the course of his employment, as he was on a meal break at the time of the accident, and affirmed the disallowance of the claim. Upon claimant's application for full Board review, the full Board rescinded the Board panel's decision and referred the matter back for further consideration. The panel then reversed its prior decision and found that claimant's injury did arise out of and in the course of his employment, prompting this appeal. The employer contends that as claimant was on a meal break at the time of the accident, his injuries are not compensable. Injuries sustained during meal breaks taken off employer's premises are generally not compensable. However, where the nature of the employment dictates the time and place of the meal, and the employee is still considered to be on the job at the time the break occurs, the rule does not apply. Moreover, the nature of employment as a taxi cab driver fits this exception, since, while employed, he is transient and thus does not control where he or she may be at any given time. Here, the employer's representative testified that drivers took 15 to 20 minute meal breaks at a time and place convenient to the employer and with its express permission. As such, the Board's determination that claimant's injury occurred during the course of his employment is supported by substantial evidence. 

Baldwin v. City of New York, Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, (2007) New York, 
Slip Op 06614. 

The plaintiff Cecil Baldwin (hereinafter the plaintiff) suffered a work-related injury while in the employ of the appellant ABC Ambulette Services, Inc. (hereinafter ABC), in December 1998, for which he applied for, and received, workers' compensation benefits. On March 17, 1999, while the plaintiff was being transported to a physical therapy appointment in one of ABC's ambulettes, driven by the appellant Philip Gamer, a taxi cab owned by the defendant King Verin Taxi, Inc., and operated by the defendant Chandhry Warraich, collided with the ambulette. As a result, the plaintiff's prior work-related injuries were aggravated. After a hearing, the Workers' Compensation Board ordered the plaintiff's benefits continued as a result of his "consequential ... injury." "In general, workers compensation benefits are the exclusive remedy of an employee against an employer for any damages sustained from injury or death arising out of and in the course of employment" However, a "plaintiff's application for, and acceptance of, Workers' Compensation benefits d[oes] not preclude him [or her] from bringing a separate common-law action to recover damages based on the subsequent acts of negligence which result in the aggravation of his [or her] work-related injuries where the aggravation of the injuries did not arise out of or in the course of the plaintiff's employment." 

Taxis are a vital service to any big city. The majority of the drivers are hard working and honest. Drivers usually pay a leasing fee upfront before they start their 12 hour shift and also pay for gas. They are required to pick up anyone who hails their cab or face stiff fines. Every passenger is a total stranger when they enter the cab. Most of them are really nice people who like to engage you in conversation and share a small slice of their lives. salutes all the good men and women who are part of this exigent industry.

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