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Taxi case is moving forward

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL -- A lawsuit between competing taxi companies in Front Royal moved forward Monday, though an attorney may drop two former drivers from the case.

Yellow Cab of the Shenandoah claims in a complaint filed in Warren County Circuit Court that former drivers used proprietary information to give their employer, A-1 Taxi LLC, an edge in the market.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Yellow Cab by Manassas attorney David W. Silek, also claims that several drivers named in the complaint broke contracts with the plaintiff that restricted them from working for any other competitors.

Judge Dennis L. Hupp held a brief hearing on the case Monday in Warren County Circuit Court. Silek appeared for the plaintiff. Luray attorney Michael Helm appeared for A-1 Taxi via telephone.

Hupp scheduled a hearing for Dec. 16 on motions filed by both parties. Helm had filed a demurrer in the case claiming that A-1 should be dismissed from the suit. Silek has asked the court to find several of the defendants named in the suit in default for failing to respond.

The complaint identified former Yellow Cab drivers Robert Passamore, Charles Forbus, Timothy Cooke and Carl Brown III as respondents, along with A-1 Taxi and its owner Jenna Weatherholt.

Yellow Cab sought an injunction against A-1 Taxi and asked the court to order the former drivers identified in the complaint to surrender customer lists and invoices as well as to destroy copies of such documents, pricing schedules and rate information.

The plaintiff also asked the court to keep A-1 Taxi from using the drivers identified in the complaint for one year.

Outside the courthouse, several people who had appeared for the hearing approached Silek without other attorneys present. After the discussion, Silek commented that two of the defendants "just settled" with him.

"Mr. Passamore and Mr. Cooke have agreed to an order that they shall not be employed by A-1 Taxi for a period of a year from the date of their last employ by Yellow Cab, which is, frankly, what we asked for when this whole thing started," Silek said.

Forbus filed a motion to dismiss the case against him on Monday. The motion listed six reasons for seeking the dismissal, including "incomplete contract," "No Business License for any driver EVER worked as employees," "Car unsafe - leaking gas and exhaust fumes," "Only worked 5 or so days in January due to unsafe vehicles." Forbus does not specify in his motion whether he referred to A-1 or Yellow Cab. Forbus claims that he didn't start working for A-1 until mid July and states he was terminated for refusing to drive a specific vehicle because it leaked gas and exhaust.

Forbus also filed a "discovery request" to include a "bill of particular," "blue sheets from March 2011-March 2012 Days worked," "Blue sheets January 2013," "Copy of contract," "Trespass Notice on wall; including one for Larry Forbus and Lisa Forbus," and "Repair bills and receipts for January and February 2013 for driver and mechanic."

Helm states in the demurrer filed with the court on Friday that the plaintiff's complaint fails on several levels relative to any allegations against A-1 Taxi. Helm states that A-1 Taxi is not a party to any agreements between individual drivers and Yellow Cab and, therefore, can't be prevented from hiring the individual defendants.

A-1 Taxi does not have any information regarding the documents the plaintiff claims individual drivers took from Yellow Cab, Helm states. The plaintiff requests that the defendants not contact Yellow Cab customers. However, the demurrer states that customers of A-1 Taxi and the plaintiff are members of the public at large. The plaintiff's request to destroy documents purportedly taken by former drivers lacks merit because A-1 did not have possession of these papers, according to the demurrer.

Helm states that the plaintiff has not alleged that A-1 Taxi LLC is a party to any agreement nor owed a fiduciary duty to Yellow Cab. The plaintiff also fails to show that A-1 acted with willful and malicious purpose to hurt Yellow Cab's business, the demurrer states. Helm also claims that Yellow Cab hasn't alleged in the lawsuit that A-1 Taxi assumed or exercised control of any customer list.

Silek said he and his client contend that A-1 should remain a party to the lawsuit because they employed the contracted drivers who signed agreements not to compete for other companies. Customers of his client would testify that individuals identified in the lawsuit contacted them to solicit their business, Silek said.

Yellow Cab is seeking damages of $900,000.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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