Posted by: Patricia Salkin | May 19, 2017

3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Affirms the District Court’s Denial of Motion to Enforce a Settlement Agreement Regarding Municipal Licensing and Zoning Ordinances Pertaining to Autocabs

Appellant Jacob’s Limousine Transportation, Inc. sued the City of Newark, alleging that the City selectively enforced various municipal licensing and zoning ordinances that all autocab companies in Newark were required to follow. The parties settled in 2011. In 2012, Jacob’s Limo filed a motion to enforce the Settlement Agreement. Magistrate Judge Wettre issued a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) to deny the motion, and the District Court adopted the R&R in full. Jacob’s Limo timely appealed.

As pertinent to this case, the terms of the Settlement Agreement obligated the City to “continue its vigilance, enforcement efforts, and supervision of all autocab, limousine, and livery services operating under the laws of New Jersey and the laws of the City of Newark, and … enforce diligently all such laws applicable to all autocab, limousine, and livery services under their licensure.” On appeal, Jacob’s Limo argued that the City breached the Settlement Agreement by failing to limit the issuance of autocab licenses based on available parking, and sought relief in the form of formal monitoring of the City’s licensing procedures by a monitor paid for by the City.

Specifically, Jacob’s Limo disagreed with the District Court’s interpretation of the sections of the Code of the City of Newark that regulate autocabs, limousines, and livery services.  Jacob’s Limo construed City Code § 34:2-3 as requiring all autocab companies to have as many off-street parking places at its principal place of business in Newark as it has autocabs in its fleet. However, the court noted that this provision did not state where autocabs would be garaged, only that they were prohibited from being parked on Newark streets. Jacob’s Limo’s argument to disregard the plain language of the City Code therefore failed, and the District Court’s interpretation of the City Code was upheld.

Jacob’s Limo lastly argued that, even using the plain reading of the City Code, there was sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the City breached the Settlement Agreement by permitting certain autocab companies to operate without proper zoning approvals or licenses. The court found that Jacob’s Limo failed to meet its burden of demonstrating that autocab companies were doing this. Here, Jacob’s Limo could have used discovery and the three-day evidentiary hearing to call representatives of various autocab companies and assess their compliance with the City’s autocab laws, but failed to do so. Contrary to this contention, the evidence in the record indicated that these other autocab companies were in compliance with those licensing and registration laws. The court therefore affirmed the District Court’s denial of Jacob’s Limo motion to enforce.

Jacobs Limousine Transportation, Inc. v City of Newark, 2017 WL 1628963 (3rd Cir. CA 5/2/2017)

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