Judge Delays Hearings on Lyft's Future in St. Louis

May 22, 2014 at 6:00 am
click to enlarge Lyft's pink mustaches are getting their day in court. - Urbanists on Flickr, cropped
Lyft's pink mustaches are getting their day in court.

A full week of deliberations just isn't enough. On Wednesday, Circuit Court Judge Joan Moriarty ordered a ten-day break before the hearings over ride-sharing app Lyft's future in St. Louis can continue.

After hearing from all of the witnesses, Moriarty asked counselors from Lyft and from the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission, which is fighting for a permanent injunction against Lyft, to prepare a findings report by June 2.

Stephen O'Brien, a lawyer representing Lyft, asked Moriarty to expedite the process and allow closing arguments since Lyft is under a temporary restraining order until Moriarty makes her final decision.

"This is a bit of an emergency," O'Brien said in court. "This is important to us, and we need to get this resolved."

See previous: Lyft Fights Injunction in St. Louis Court: "It's Just Not Fair"

St. Louis' taxicab commission has already cited five Lyft drivers for operating a ride-for-hire business without proper business or drivers licenses.

The ten-day delay prolongs a two-month legal battle over Lyft's ability to do business in St. Louis. Before Lyft launched its army of mustached cars in April, the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission sent the company a cease-and-desist letter saying it was not approved to do business in Missouri. Just hours after Lyft officially started, police cited the first of four Lyft drivers for driving without proper licenses. Two days later, a judge granted a temporary restraining order.

None of these legal maneuvers have stopped Lyft from offering rides in the city and county, and it's unclear whether the new injunction will really force Lyft to stop operating.

"Lyft is now live and providing safe rides and economic opportunity in 34 cities across the United States," Lyft spokeswoman Paige Thelen said after receiving a copy of the temporary injunction. St. Louis and Salt Lake City were the 33rd and 34th cities to join Lyft's list. "St. Louis deserves the same modern transportation choices of other large leading U.S. cities."

From the beginning, Lyft has argued that the taxi commission has no authority over its cars, which are mostly the drivers' personal vehicles outfitted with $1 million insurance policies from the company. And why, asks cofounder John Zimmer, should a tech-savvy company like Lyft abide by rules written pre-smartphones?

"It is new, what we're doing is new," Zimmer tells Daily RFT. "Those [rules] were written decades ago, when this wasn't possible."

Catch up on our coverge of Lyft's St. Louis launch: -Lyft Plans Weekend Launch in St. Louis, But Will the City Shut It Down? -Lyft Never Told New Drivers It's Technically Illegal, Not Licensed in St. Louis -Lyft Driver Cited By St. Louis Police Says He Wasn't Doing Anything Wrong -Judge Says Lyft Must Stop in St. Louis; Lyft Calls Restraining Order "Bullying and Intimidation"

In the meantime, rival app Uber is poised to launch in St. Louis once it obtains the license the taxicab commission specially designed for ride-sharing businesses. Uber has been petitioning for changes to the ride-for-hire rules -- with support from Mayor Francis Slay.

Those changes will go before the taxi commission at its next meeting, which has also been pushed back.

See also: 5 Things Cofounder John Zimmer Wants St. Louis to Know About Lyft