Quebec taxi drivers awarded $143M in class-action ruling

In a class-action ruling, taxi drivers in Quebec have been awarded a sum of $143 million.  (Getty Images/Josie Desmarais - image credit)
In a class-action ruling, taxi drivers in Quebec have been awarded a sum of $143 million. (Getty Images/Josie Desmarais - image credit)

Years after the Quebec government deregulated the taxi industry to allow services like Uber to operate, taxi drivers in Quebec have scored a court victory to the tune of $143 million, plus interest.

On Friday, a Quebec Superior Court judge awarded the sum as part of a ruling in class-action lawsuit.

In 2019, Bill 17 was passed into law. The law abolished the taxi permit system while integrating app-based ride-hailing services into provincial regulations.

Around the time the law was passed, services like Uber were expanding their operations in the province, prompting anger and protests from taxi drivers who had spent tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, to purchase their taxi permits.

After the bill became law, the Quebec government doled out more than $800 million in compensation to taxi drivers in the province, but drivers didn't believe that amount was enough to make up for their losses.

The arrival of ride-hailing services in Quebec led to many protests from taxi drivers, like the one seen here from 2017.
The arrival of ride-hailing services in Quebec led to many protests from taxi drivers, like the one seen here from 2017.

Taxi drivers organized several protests, like the one seen here in 2017, when ride-hailing services like Uber began expanding their operations in the province. (Lauren McCallum/CBC)

The lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit, Dama Métellus, claimed that the appropriate compensation total should've been slightly more than $1.1 billion. Métellus was seeking roughly $300 million in extra compensation.

Justice Silvana Conte settled on a lower number in the end.

The plaintiffs tried to argue that compensation should be based on the market value of taxi permits as of 2014. The judge ultimately decided the compensation should be based on their value in 2016, the year the province launched a pilot project that allowed Uber to operate.

Despite awarding a lower sum than the plaintiffs had asked for, the judge described the 2019 law as "disguised expropriation," agreeing with the claim made by the lead plaintiff.

Metellus said he was happy about the ruling, calling it a "matter of justice."

"I always thought justice would ultimately prevail," he told Radio-Canada.

The lawsuit had also sought $1,000 in punitive damages for each member of the class action, but the judge rejected that request.