Some taxi companies ignore court-ordered judgments

Some taxi companies ignore court-ordered judgments. Miami Herald By AL CHARDI

  • A few local taxi drivers and their companies which traditionally have used delaying tactics in fighting injury claims, are now ignoring even court ordered judgments. Disclosure that some legal orders to pay are ignored or delayed comes on the heels of an Aug.23 report in The Herald that many taxi driver, cab companies and their insurance carriers in Miami Dade routinely delay dealing with crash victims. Avoiding injury claims riles victims and their attorneys; ignoring court orders raises the issue to a criminal level.
  • Although the state moves relatively quickly to suspend the licences of taxi drivers who ignore legal judgements, justice moves more slowly when it comes to taxi companies, permit owners and insurance carriers, attorneys who represent victims say.
  • Steven Oxen handler, director of the county’s passenger transportation regulatory division said he is aware some cabbies and companies ignore court judgements. But Oxenhandler said that when his office gets involved, cab companies generally pay attention and generally pay the compensation or work out a payment plan with the plaintiffs and their attorneys.His office has the power to conduct administrative proceedings to to revoke the companies operating licences.
  • Marcelle.B Poirier a coconut grove lawyer, won a case against prestige taxi and one of his drivers last spring. The judgment still hasn’t been paid in full. “It’s a conspiracy of abuse” Poirier said. They (the cap companies) try to discourage attorneys from taking these types of cases so that when somebody comes in who has been injured in an accident with a cab the attorney will say” No, I won’t take the case because we would never get paid”.
  • In the case Poirier handled, circuit judge Norman Gerstein handed down the final jdgement on april 28. It ordered Prestige Taxi of Miami and Driver Joseph F petit Frere to pay Emily Totino of Miami beach $43.866 in damages. The order came five years after vehicle driven by Totino and Petifrere collided. “it has been an ordeal because they’re not willing to pay,” totino said Sunday. “They make you go through hell to try to get rid of you.” A look at the case illustrate the problem. The crash occurred at 7:20a.m. jan.26,1993 at the intersection of Royal palm Avenue and 41st Street in Miami beach.Police cited petit frere for ignoring a “traffic control device” – running a red light.
  • Unanswered claims.

  • Letters from tottino’s attorneys to prestrige Taxi and its claims adjustors went anunswered for months. An april 26, 1993 letter included a threat to sue.
  • A few weeks later, Byscaine insurance Co. wrote to totino’s attorneys, acknowledging Prestige was a client. But Biscayne Insurance said its policy did not cover the driver because he was “not operating for hire” at the time of the accident – in other words , petit frer was not carrying passengers. Oxenhandler, of the county’s passenger transportation division said county law at the time of Totino’s accident was vague about whether insurance carriers had to cover taxis when they weren’t carrying passengers.
  • A law passed July 9 by county commissioners clearly requires taxis to be recovered by insurance at all times. Four years passed before Totino finally sued prestige and Petit Frere But Little happened, even after Judge Gerstein’s april 28 Judgment.
  • Company in default.

  • On may 28, Poirier wrote to Prestige attorney Michael S. Kaufman warning that his clients had not paid. Kaufman did not return three calls from the Herald to his office last week. But in the past, taxi industry leaders and their lawyers have said delays occur because injury claims must be screened to weed out the bogus.
  • Poirier told Kaufmann that she intended to notify the Florida Department of Highway safety and motor Vehicles that the taxi company and the driver were in default and that their permits licenses and registrations should be suspended. In July Poirier, also wrote to Oxenhandler,asking that Prestige ‘s license be revoked. Oxenhandler told Poirier to forward the judgment and that the county would submit it to a hearing board.
  • Driver off the road.

  • Poirier said she sent the judgment to Oxenhandler in May and heard only last week that the case may go to a hearing at some point.
  • On august 24, the Department of Highway safety and motor Vehicles took Petitfrere off the road. “Your driving license, tag and registration have been suspended as of 08-23-98, due to a civil court judgment brought against you as a result of an automobile crash,” the department wrote to petit frere. Petit frere, who throughout the litigation has been absent from the proceedings suddenly showed up at at Poirier’s law office pleading for help to get the suspension lifted.
  • Poirier said Petit Frere told her he was not aware of the law suit or the judgment. He said he had always assumed he was fully covered by insurance and that he had expected his company to protect him because he has always paid his fees on time.Recently, the cabby paid $5,000to Totino. Poirier said she then assisted him in getting his license reinstated. Abou the same time, she sid, the insurance carrier paid $20,000. “ we’re still fighting for the rest of the money” Poirier said Friday Wehave had at least 10 post judgement hearings on the money.”