Center for Independence of Individuals with Disabilities (CID) v. Serra Yellow Cab
A lawsuit filed on February 24, 2016 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California alleges that Serra Yellow Cab (“Serra”) violates federal and state law by charging wheelchair users up to four times more than the standard fare because they require accessible taxis. Serra, a for-profit transportation company based in Daly City, California, is the only taxi company to offer wheelchair accessible taxis for retail taxi service in San Mateo County. Serra has been on notice since 2013 that this discriminatory policy and practice is illegal, but it continues to this day.
Accessible taxis provide either a lift or ramp into the vehicle. Passengers in power chairs (or wheelchairs that cannot fit into the vehicle trunk) and/or passengers who are unable to transfer from their wheelchair to the vehicle seat require accessible taxis in order to use taxi service.
The suit is brought by the Center for Independence of Individuals with Disabilities (“CID”) and Joseph Del Aguila. Plaintiff CID is the independent living center for San Mateo County, with a mission to advance the independence of individuals with disabilities. As a part of its mission, CID advocates for those persons with disabilities who require accessible taxis. In fact, CID notified Serra in 2013 that charging wheelchair users a higher fare for taxi service is unlawful. Mr. Del Aguila uses a wheelchair because of a mobility disability and needs a lift or a ramp to board a taxi. On one occasion, Mr. Del Aguila was charged $35.00 for a trip of 1.5 miles which took less than 10 minutes. Plaintiffs are represented by Disability Rights Advocates, a national non-profit organization specializing in litigation on behalf of people with disabilities.
“Serra’s discriminatory practice robs persons with disabilities of their independence,” said David DeNola, Executive Director of CID. “Persons who need accessible taxi service are forced to pay ridiculously high fares for taxi service, rely on others to assist them in traveling throughout the area, or simply not participate in the activities of their daily lives. No one, disabled or not, should have to make this choice.”
According to Vincent Merola, Systems Change Coordinator at CID, “This is not the first time Serra Cab has been notified about their unlawful practices. It’s unconscionable that they would continue to prey off of those in our community who are often times the most vulnerable.”
Joseph Del Aguila, said, “I would like the option of using taxis to get to meetings, medical appointments, and cultural activities, but the cost of Serra’s accessible taxi service is prohibitive. Because Serra is the only choice for people like me who require accessible taxis, I’m forced to find less efficient alternatives to taxi service. I don’t think it’s right that I’m in this dilemma just because I have a mobility disability.”
“People with mobility disabilities need affordable transportation to get to work, health care, and places like restaurants, movie theaters, and parks. Accessible taxis are often more reliable and flexible than paratransit, a good alternative to owning one’s own vehicle, and a replacement for public transportation that has its own access issues,” said Mary-Lee Smith, Director of Litigation at Disability Rights Advocates. “Serra’s practice of charging people with mobility disabilities an exorbitant fare obstructs full and equal community integration and participation for these individuals.”