Richard Paul Stone, New York, NY, for appellants Village Taxi
Corp., P.C. Taxi Corp., Luso American Taxi, Inc., Pedro
Montoya, Yodna Vivanco-Small, and Zoila Ivarra.
Leavitt Legal PLLC, White Plains, NY (Benjamin L. Felcher
Leavitt of counsel), for appellant Anean Goyburu Corp.
Collins, Fitzpatrick & Schoene, LLP, White Plains, NY
(Ralph F. Schoene of counsel), for respondents.
C. BALKIN, J.P. CHERYL E. CHAMBERS JOSEPH J. MALTESE COLLEEN
D. DUFFY, JJ.
DECISION & ORDER
action, inter alia, to recover damages for violation of
General Business Law § 340 (the Donnelly Antitrust Act),
the defendants Village Taxi Corp., P.C. Taxi Corporation,
Luso American Taxi, Inc., Pedro Montoya, Yodna Vivanco-Small,
and Zoila Ivarra appeal, and the defendant Anean Goyburu
Corp. separately appeals, as limited by their respective
briefs, from so much of a judgment of the Supreme Court,
Westchester County (Smith, J.), dated March 31, 2014, as,
upon the denial of that branch of their motion which was
pursuant to CPLR 4401 for judgment as a matter of law
dismissing the causes of action alleging violations of
General Business Law §§ 340 and 349 and injurious
falsehood insofar as asserted against them, and upon a jury
verdict finding, inter alia, that they violated General
Business Law §§ 340 and 349 and awarding damages to
the plaintiff Coqui Taxi Corporation, is in favor of that
plaintiff and against them in the principal sums of $787, 000
for compensatory damages and $50, 000 for punitive damages.
that the judgment is reversed insofar as appealed from, on
the law, with costs payable to the appellants appearing
separately and filing separate briefs, and that branch of the
appellants' motion which was pursuant to CPLR 4401 for
judgment as a matter of law dismissing the causes of action
alleging violations of General Business Law Â§Â§ 340 and 349
and injurious falsehood insofar as asserted against them is
granted, and those causes of action are dismissed insofar as
asserted against the appellants.
to the Code of the Village of Port Chester (hereinafter
Village Code), there were 75 taxicab licenses, or medallions,
available in the Village. In addition to other licensing
requirements, the Village Code provides that "[n]o
[taxicab] license shall be issued unless said person and
vehicle are affiliated with a dispatching company duly
licensed under the provisions of this chapter" (Village
Code § 295-11[A]). A "DISPATCH COMPANY" is
defined as "[a]ny person(s), corporation, partnership or
other entity that solicits or receives requests for taxi
service" (Village Code § 295-1).
to 2009, the Village Code provided for four taxi dispatch
licenses (see Village Code § 295-20[E]), and
four taxicab companies each held one of the dispatch
licenses. Those companies are the defendants Village Taxi
Corp. (hereinafter Village Taxi), P.C. Taxi Corporation
(hereinafter P.C. Taxi), Luso American Taxi, Inc.
(hereinafter Luso Taxi), and Anean Goyburu Corp., which was
also known as RC Taxi (hereinafter RC Taxi).
February 25, 2009, notwithstanding that the Village Code
provided for only four taxi dispatch licenses, the Village
issued a fifth taxi dispatch license to the plaintiff Dolores
Gonzalez. Approximately three months later in May 2009, the
Village Code was amended to permit the issuance of a fifth
dispatch license (see Village Code §
295-20[E]). Gonzalez used the dispatch license to open the
plaintiff Coqui Taxi Corporation (hereinafter Coqui) as the
Village's fifth taxi company. Gonzalez and her boyfriend,
the plaintiff Carlos Pereya, each had their own medallion
taxi and worked as taxi drivers for Coqui.
drivers who operate their own medallion taxicabs typically
enter into an arrangement with a licensed taxi dispatch
company, whereby the driver pays the taxi company a daily or
weekly fee for its dispatch service to receive calls for
passenger pickups from the company's dispatcher. It was
common for medallion drivers to move from one taxi company to
another for dispatch services. Providing a dispatch service
is one source of revenue for a taxi company in the Village.
Another source of revenue for a taxi company that owns
licensed medallion taxicabs is to rent those vehicles to taxi
drivers who do not have their own medallion taxicabs. At all
times relevant to this appeal, Coqui had no additional
licensed medallion taxicabs to rent to taxi drivers.
Accordingly, aside from the fares earned by Gonzalez and
Pereya as drivers, Coqui anticipated that its primary source
of revenue would come from dispatch service fees charged to
medallion drivers who had their own licensed taxicabs.
after Coqui opened for business, only two medallion drivers
used Coqui's dispatch service, and they did so for only
three weeks. Gonzalez believed that Coqui's failure to
attract medallion drivers to its dispatch service was
attributable to certain disparaging remarks about Coqui and
threats against drivers that were broadcast over the dispatch
radio by the defendant taxi companies.
plaintiffs commenced this action against the defendant taxi
companies and their individual owners (hereinafter
collectively the appellants), among others, to recover
damages, inter alia, for a violation of General Business Law
§ 340 (the Donnelly Antitrust Act) based on an alleged
agreement causing a restraint on trade, and for alleged
deceptive trade practices in violation of General Business
Law § 349, as well as a cause of action alleging
injurious falsehood. The plaintiffs alleged that the
defendant companies grew concerned about their profitability
when the Village issued a fifth dispatch license to Gonzalez
and, as a result, the defendant companies formed an agreement
or conspiracy to make concerted efforts to dissuade medallion
drivers from using Coqui's dispatch service. The
plaintiffs alleged that the defendant companies used their
dispatchers to make disparaging remarks about Gonzalez and
Coqui and to threaten medallion drivers over the dispatch
radio. The plaintiffs further alleged that these threats and
disparaging remarks perpetrated by the defendant companies
inflicted economic harm on Coqui.
jury trial, the plaintiffs presented 10 witnesses, including
the owners of the defendant companies. Since the defendant
owners testified on the plaintiffs' case, the defendants
did not present any additional witnesses.
Martinez, a former taxi dispatcher, testified that at
different times over the years, he had worked as a dispatcher
for all four defendant companies. He testified that he was
directed by individual defendant owners to say unpleasant
things about Coqui over the radio from approximately 2009
until 2012 or 2013, but he did not expressly describe an
agreement between the defendant owners. Martinez stated that
he used the dispatching radio to cast aspersions on
Gonzalez's character and describe Coqui as an illegal
company. Additionally, he stated that he was given