Tue May 20, 2014
Lyft Hearing Day Three Is About Insurance; Taxi Commission Open To Talks With The Ride-Sharing App
The legal battle between the ride-sharing app Lyft and the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission continued for a third day today at the Carnahan Courthouse.
Lyft representative Joseph Okpaku spent yet another day on the witness stand. Okpaku testified Monday that the company is not a cab service, that its cars are not "vehicles for hire," and that Lyft's insurance was better than what St. Louis requires of its taxis. The Metropolitan Taxicab Commission, which is seeking a preliminary injunction against Lyft to stop doing business in St. Louis, challenged Okpaku's assertions Tuesday.
One of the MTC's big issues: Insurance coverage for Lyft cars and drivers. Okpaku argued that Lyft drivers are required to have personal car insurance. And on top of that, he said, drivers are protected by Lyft's million dollar insurance plan. Okpaku and Lyft were open to releasing the details of the the policy but only to the lawyers and judge. They wanted to keep specifics of the policy under seal. They said details in the policy, like the pricing structure, were trade secrets and that revealing those specifics would put Lyft in danger from rivals like Uber and Sidecar.
During cr0ss-examination, MTC's lawyer Neil Bruntrager said he wanted Lyft's insurance policy made public. He said the commission had a duty to make sure Lyft was complying with city and state ordinances and to make sure the public is safe. And, he added, that keeping details of the insurance policy secret was "anathema to why the MTC was created."
Ronald Klein, Executive Director of the taxi commission, echoed a similar sentiment. He said he wants to make sure Lyft is complying with existing law. He added that his goal and the goal of the taxi commission is not to keep new, innovative companies like Lyft from operating in St. Louis.
Klein said he was open to finding a middle ground that would let Lyft do business in St. Louis. But he said, he hasn't had a "single syllable" of dialogue with the startup, and couldn't talk about compromises the commission might be willing to consider. As a start, he said, "If Lyft called, I will answer."
The hearing will roll into a fourth day, as Lyft calls additional witnesses.