responded by issuing a letter condemning the practice and directing the police to halt all City-licensed liveries from dispatching from the booths.
The plaintiffs submit that notwithstanding Dunne's instructions, an administrative assistant in the Aviation Department, Thomas Jaconetty, learned of police reluctance to enforce Dunne's policy in February 1979. Even if Dunne himself heard of this reluctance -- there is no evidence that he did -- a memorandum written by Jaconetty which describes police reaction to Dunne's directive notes in clear terms that Jaconetty told the police to enforce the law. The jury heard no evidence from which it could reasonably infer that Dunne understood that discrimination continued notwithstanding his directive and Jaconetty's discussions with the police, or that Dunne acquiesced in discrimination.
Thus, as of Dunne's letter in 1979, the City's policy -- both officially and by way of customs known to the Commissioner -- was against the practices which Dunne condemned in his letter. Dunne's successor, Thomas Kapsalis, did not amend this policy until 1982. The jury heard no evidence that Kapsalis knew of practices contrary to Dunne's order prior to becoming Commissioner in September 1980 until January 1982. In January, the Circuit Court of Cook County ordered changes in livery operations at O'Hare. In response to this order, Commissioner Kapsalis directed that limousine companies serving Chicago -- he made no distinction between those licensed by the City and those licensed by suburban municipalities -- could share the O'Hare dispatch booths.
On January 20, 1982, Robert Cusumano, the First Deputy Commissioner of Aviation, and William Corbett, Cusumano's subordinate, spoke at a meeting of livery operators, shortly after Kapsalis had changed the City's policies about the O'Hare booths. It is undisputed that Cusumano told everyone present that livery operators would be treated equally, consistent with Commissioner Kapsalis's policy. Cusumano then left the meeting, leaving Corbett -- a person who, by law, could not make City policies over the O'Hare booths. Corbett described the City's "policy" differently from Cusumano. Corbett told the livery operators that only the plaintiffs who had prevailed in the Circuit Court could use the booths. All other City-licensed liveries who served Chicago, Corbett told the group, would have to sue to gain entry to the booths.
Corbett's statement is the only evidence that a City official believed there was a distinction between City- and suburban-licensed liveries who served Chicago for purposes of operating out of the O'Hare dispatch booths. This official had no authority to make City policy over the booths. The plaintiffs introduced no evidence from which a jury reasonably could infer that the one official who had authority to make policies for the booths, Commissioner Kapsalis, knew of and acquiesced in Corbett's characterization of City policy as of and after January 20, 1982, until the City halted booth operations in 1986.
The plaintiffs thus have failed to introduce evidence from which any jury reasonably could conclude that the City's policy was to discriminate against the plaintiffs. Even if the plaintiffs had introduced sufficient evidence on this point, however, they still would have failed to prove that this discrimination violated the plaintiffs' constitutional right to equal protection of the laws. As this court stated in its prior opinion, the court starts from the presumption that the City's regulations are valid, and the court must sustain them if the City's distinctions among livery operators are rationally related to the City's legitimate interests. See Pontarelli, 704 F. Supp. at 1515. If the court can hypothesize plausible reasons for a regulation which are within the legitimate goals of a government, "nothing else is required to validate the governmental classification. . . ." Evans v. City of Chicago, 873 F.2d 1007, 1016 (7th Cir. 1989).
The plaintiffs originally argued that the City made numerous distinctions among livery operators which violated the law. The only one of these classifications left for trial was the City's alleged distinction after 1977 between suburban-licensed liveries which served Chicago and City-licensed liveries which served the same area.
See Pontarelli, 704 F. Supp. at 1517. The uncontradicted evidence from trial indicates that the distinction is the result of other, lawful classifications among livery drivers. As the evidence at trial showed and as this court has previously held, the City legitimately could distinguish between suburban and City-licensed liveries. The City learned from a study commissioned by it in 1973 that livery companies serving the suburbs (which, as a result of the City's licensing practices, could not be City-licensed companies, see id.) were responsible in large part for livery-related traffic congestion and illegal solicitation at O'Hare. In keeping with its legitimate interests in reducing this congestion and solicitation, the City rationally could have ordered the suburban services to operate out of booths.
The booths themselves were a problem. Some in the City regarded them as slovenly and undesirable. Livery companies hawked their services to arriving passengers, sometimes in ways that were offensive. Operators also fought among themselves for business. In keeping with legitimate aesthetic concerns, the City rationally could have chosen to limit booth operations to the extent necessary to solve its traffic and solicitation problems. The City could have felt that City-licensed companies did not contribute substantially to the traffic and solicitation problems, and that the trouble accompanying booths for City-licensed companies would outweigh any gains in smoother traffic flow. City-licensed companies also were free to arrange with suburban liveries or join two suburban-dominated trade associations, the Northern Illinois Livery Owners Association and the Midwest Livery Association, to dispatch City-bound liveries from their positions at the booths. The City thus could have rationally decided not to provide or allow booths for City-licensed liveries.
Things changed in January 1982, when it is undisputed that the City allowed the City-licensed companies who had prevailed in the Circuit Court to use the booths. The City rationally could have decided to adhere to its earlier policy, that of not having booths for companies not serving the suburbs, while making an exception for those companies which had prevailed in the Circuit Court of Cook County. This compromise would have allowed the City to achieve the optimal balance of its interests in having as few booths as possible and avoiding trouble with the state court. While the plaintiffs here may disagree with the wisdom of this compromise, the possibility of a "wiser" economic or social alternatives does not make a municipality's chosen policy illegal under the Fourteenth Amendment, unless the chosen policy is arbitrary or irrational. See id.
In essence, the court holds that even if it was City policy after 1982 to let the plaintiffs sue to have booths at O'Hare, such a policy would not have violated the Fourteenth Amendment. Such a policy may have indicated disagreement with the Circuit Court's order, but the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment does not prevent a municipality from defending a social or economic policy which is rationally related to its legitimate interests -- even if such a defense goes against the spirit of a court's decision.
The court thus must enter judgment in favor of the City, notwithstanding the jury's verdict in this matter. The court will dismiss the parties' remaining motions as moot. The court should note, however, that even if the City had violated the plaintiffs' right to equal protection of the laws, the court would be compelled to award only nominal damages.
This is because the plaintiffs employed damages theories which had gross errors. The plaintiffs first presented the jury with a so-called "deadhead" calculation, an estimate of the savings to the plaintiffs had they been able to fill their vehicles as they left O'Hare. The flaw in this calculation was that it was not based on the actual experiences of the plaintiffs or of booth operators. This flaw forced the jury to speculate about the plaintiffs' actual numbers of deadheads and the degree to which operating in the booths would have reduced their losses from deadheads. Moreover, the deadhead calculation did not account for the competition among the plaintiffs that would have ensued had the plaintiffs had booths at O'Hare. Taken together, these flaws rendered the plaintiffs' presentation on deadheads worthless.
The second theory which the plaintiffs presented to the jury concerned general lost opportunities from not operating out of the O'Hare booths. The plaintiffs rested this theory on evidence that liveries serving the City which operated out of the booths had 68.9% more mileage than the plaintiffs' vehicles. The plaintiffs suggested that had they operated out of the booths, they would have recognized similar success. The flaw in this reasoning is patent: it is unrealistic. Allowing the plaintiffs to operate out of the booths might have increased the supply of liveries at O'Hare, but the plaintiffs submitted no evidence that demand would rise correspondingly. It is more plausible that the plaintiffs would have competed against one another. This would have resulted in substantially less of an increase in passenger miles than 68.9%, lower revenues per mile (as passengers took advantage of greater competition), or both.
In sum, the plaintiffs' damages theories lacked foundation in the evidence and allowed the jury to speculate unreasonably. Nominal damages along the lines awarded to seven of the plaintiffs would have been appropriate in this case, but the plaintiffs did not demonstrate their entitlement to anything more. See Ustrak v. Fairman, 781 F.2d 573, 578-80 (7th Cir. 1986) ("damages, like every other contested element of a plaintiff's case, must be proved in order to be recovered"; jury not allowed "to speculate in a void.").
The court enters judgment in favor of the City of Chicago, notwithstanding the verdict in favor of the plaintiffs. The court denies all other motions as moot.
DATE: March 22, 1990