Judge tosses out racketeering lawsuit against Uber

A federal judge dismisses complaints brought against Uber by Connecticut taxi companies -- but leaves open the possibility of future lawsuits.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
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Uber CEO Travis Kalanick addresses a crowd during the ride-hailing service's fifth anniversary celebration. James Martin/CNET

In a win for Uber, a federal judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit filed against the car-hailing service by more than a Connecticut-based taxi companies.

US District Court Judge Alvin Thompson ruled that none of the seven complaints brought against Uber by local taxi and limousine companies were valid. Uber -- a ride-hailing service that pairs passengers with drivers via a smartphone app -- was accused of violating a range of federal and state laws, including misrepresenting the kinds of services it offers, engaging in "deceptive trade practices," and racketeering.

While the judge dismissed all of the charges, he left open the possibility of the taxi companies amending their claims.

The victory comes as Uber faces off with taxi consortiums around the world over whether it should be allowed to operate. The service, which operates in more than 250 cities in 58 countries, has faced legal action everywhere from the US to Europe to India, for a range of allegations including acting unlawfully and not adhering to the same taxi laws imposed upon its competitors. Uber has argued that it is not subject to transportation laws since it is a "technology company" that does not own vehicles. Uber drives are also technically not employees of the company, allowing it to sidestep some taxi laws.

A standout in this case, the taxi companies cited federal racketeering law, calling the car-hailing service a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) -- an allegation Judge Thompson dismissed out of hand. Racketeering charges are most often used by law enforcement officials targeting illegal organizations or crime syndicates. It's rare for it to be used in a civil case between companies.

For its part, Uber was quick to laud Judge Thompson's ruling. "We applaud the district court's decision that will allow Connecticut drivers and riders to continue enjoying the economic and transportation benefits that Uber brings to the State," said an Uber spokeman in an emailed statement.

Still, the fight may not be over: Judge Thompson has allowed the taxi companies to amend their claims against Uber, potentially restarting the lawsuit process.

Attorneys for the taxi companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment.