NEW ORLEANS – Postcards with the return address of the nonprofit "NOLA Taxicab Legal Fund," whose directors include plaintiffs in a lawsuit against 10 UberX drivers, are being mailed to other New Orleans-area UberX drivers claiming they "may be the subject of a lawsuit."
One side of the postcard, in bold letters, says, "Attention UberX Driver, You may be the subject of a lawsuit."
On the other side, the postcard says, "If you are driving for UberX without the proper license, you may be breaking the law. A lawsuit seeking monetary damages has been filed against UberX drivers. Lawsuit 2016-905 claims that some UberX drivers are in violation of state law that requires for hire vehicles transporting passengers to have a valid Louisiana Class 'D' Chauffer's [sic] license or a Commercial Louisiana Driver's license that encompasses Class 'D' Chauffer's license privileges."
Although it doesn't say "NOLA," the postcard gives Taxicab Legal Fund’s return address as 600 Jackson Ave. in New Orleans. That is the address of NOLA Taxicab Legal Fund, according to the Louisiana Secretary of State's office. It also is the address of Coleman Cab Company, according to Whitepages.com. Coleman Cab Company is owned by Monroe Coleman, a director of NOLA Taxicab Legal Fund.
The postcard does not mention that two other the directors of NOLA Taxicab Legal Fund are named plaintiffs in the lawsuit, to which the postcard does refer. Two of the directors of the NOLA Taxicab Legal Fund are Reginald Green, who is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit; and Eddie Cutno, who is a named plaintiff in the case.
Lawsuits involving Uber are not so unusual these days. In 2015 alone, 50 lawsuits were filed by contract drivers, competitors and customers against Uber in federal court. Uber's nearest competitor, Lyft, faces only a third as many lawsuits filed against it in federal court during the same period.
The New Orleans lawsuit, filed January 26 in Civil District Court, is unique among Uber lawsuits, however, in that the defendant is not Uber. Instead, more than two dozen cab drivers are suing a little less than half as many UberX drivers alleging Louisiana law does not allow them to pick up passengers without a chauffeur’s license or commercial driver’s license.
Uber has been operating in New Orleans since last April, after approval of a city ordinance that allows ride-hailing services in the city. Lyft began operating in New Orleans earlier this month.
The NOLA Taxicab Legal Fund was established as a nonprofit corporation on April 16, 2015, operating in New Orleans with a charter number of 41856188N, and remains in good standing, according to corporate information listed on the Louisiana Secretary of State's website.
The New Orleans lawsuit, in addition to the named UberX drivers, also seeks class-action status. Specifically, the lawsuit seeks to name as members of the defendant class, "All UberX drivers operating in the Metropolitan New Orleans area whom[sic] do not and/or did not possess a validly issue(d) Louisiana Class 'D' Chauffeur's license or a Commercial Louisiana Driver's license which encompasses Class 'D' Chauffeur's license privileges as required by Louisiana law at any time during the time period April 16, 2015 through the present."
That provision in the lawsuit and the postcard have caused some chatter among the target of that would-be class action, UberX drivers in New Orleans. This includes participants in the online forum UberPeople.net.
The postcard and lawsuit are discussed in at least two threads in the forum portion of the website, with dozens of posts from drivers voicing concerns that they will be added to the lawsuit.
"Frankly, I don't want to get sued," one UberX driver, posting as "ewoozy," said in a post. "Even if the suit is completely bogus, I don't want to get sued -- especially since Uber doesn't exactly have a track record of standing behind their drivers."
Other drivers posted concerns about how their contact information was obtained for the mailing of those post cards to them. An UberX driver, posting as "Uber Tiger," said, "I got mine at my sister’s address. Which is really strange since she has a different last name, and has for years, and I have never used her address for anything.”