Boris Kautsky has been a cab driver in Philadelphia for more than two decades. At 67, he says he’s ready to retire, but can’t.
According to a recently filed federal lawsuit, Uber, the popular ride-hailing company, is to blame.
“Uber destroyed me,” said Kautsky.
Through his company CoachTrans, Inc., Kautsky and his wife, Alla, are seeking more than $1 million in damages.
The suit maintains that the company crushed the market for taxi medallions, which are required for anyone to drive a cab in the city. Kautsky, who has three of them, planned to sell them and use the money for his retirement.
“It was going to be my back up for my Social Security check,” said Kautsky.
Not long ago, one medallion could fetch as much as $500,000. In May, three medallions sold for $80,000 each.
Sergei Lemberg, Kautsky’s lawyer, said that under normal circumstances that drop in value could be chalked up to good old-fashioned competition.
This is different.
“This is not that kind of situation because Uber is not properly licensed in the city,” said Lemberg.
In a statement, Uber spokesman Craig Ewer countered that “the medallion dominated status quo made it harder for riders to get around Philadelphia and limited economic opportunites for drivers.”
The Kautsky complaint comes as Uber faces fines from the Philadelphia Parking Authority and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission for operating illegally in the state.
The PPA, which regulates taxis in the city, has fined Uber more than $300,000 for operating in the city without approval over the past year.
In November, a pair of administrative law judges with the PUC recommended a $50 million fine against Uber. The San Francisco-based company operated in Allegheny County — home to Pittsburgh — for six months in 2014 without PUC permission and obstructed legal proceedings, according to the ruling.
That fine is far from finalized. It must first be approved by the commission and could ultimately be appealed to the Court of Common Pleas.
This story was updated to include Uber’s response to the lawsuit.