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Judge sets date for jury trial in taxi case

Companies say competitor operates in Winchester without proper approval

By Alex Bridges - abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- A complaint by local taxi companies that claims a Harrisonburg competitor runs cabs in the city will be heard by a jury in January.

Winchester Circuit Court Judge John Wetsel Jr. set the case for a Jan. 28 jury trial during a Thursday motions hearing.

Yellow Cab Co., Polly's Cab Inc. and Taxi USA Inc. filed a complaint in the court several weeks ago, alleging that the Benish Corp., based in Harrisonburg, operates a service in Winchester without the necessary approval by city officials. The suit names owner Sohail Gull Afridi as a defendant.

Laura Fabrizio is identified as owner, officer and principal of Yellow Cab; Ernie Nesselrodt is the same for Polly's; as is Ron Pruitt for Taxi USA.

Afridi now is represented by James F. Davis, of the Fairfax firm Greenspun, Shapiro, Davis & Leary. A demurrer and answer to the complaint Davis filed Thursday asks the court to dismiss the action sought by the plaintiffs with prejudice. Davis also asks that no orders be filed to Afridi's detriment or prejudice, and that the court award the defendant for costs and attorneys fees.

"The bare allegations that the defendants unlawfully operated a taxi service and infringed upon plaintiffs' rights is without merit, and is merely the pleader's conclusion of law, deduced from facts not stated in the complaint," Davis says in the demurrer.

Additionally, as noted in the filing, "the plaintiffs lack standing to bring this litigation because they seek to enforce a public, and not a private, right."

In July, Wetsel denied a motion filed by the three plaintiffs, represented by Charlottesville-based attorney J. Benjamin Dick, seeking injunctive relief against the defendant.

The judge on Thursday granted a motion filed by Davis seeking leave to file a late response to the plaintiffs' complaint, despite their argument the defense has had time to reply but has not.

According to Dick's motion, the defendants failed to respond by July 30 to the plaintiff's complaint filed June 19. A default judgment entered against the defendant was upheld and the defendant was served with a notice stating he had 21 days to respond. Dick states the defendant has not yet responded.

"The defendants have continuously ignored the action ... while the plaintiffs have been diligent in prosecuting the case and giving the defendants service of process," the motion states.

According to the document, the defendant did not appear in court for a hearing on the plaintiffs' motion for temporary and injunctive relief even though Afridi was present in the courthouse.

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