A court hearing to prevent the Lyft ride-sharing service from operating in Kansas City hit the brakes Tuesday.
Kansas City officials had filed a motion in Jackson County Circuit Court for a temporary restraining order to prevent Lyft from dispatching or operating vehicles for hire, and a hearing was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.
But over the noon hour, Pat McInerney, a Kansas City lawyer representing Lyft, filed a motion to move the case to federal court.
McInerney said it was Lyft’s statutory right to have the case heard in federal court. It is now on the docket, but he did not know when the federal court might take up the matter. He declined to comment further.
Assistant City Attorney Steven Diegel also declined to comment on Tuesday’s change of venue.
Kansas City officials were hoping for a swift legal resolution because they think Lyft is operating illegally in the city. Lyft first announced operations in Kansas City in late April, and Kansas City inspectors issued 15 tickets against Lyft drivers in the first few weeks of operation.
The city argues that Lyft is a third-party transportation company covered by city code. It says the company and its drivers have failed to pass through the normal screening and certification process to ensure their qualifications for carrying passengers. Nor have they paid the required license taxes for their business activities.
The company says it is not a typical taxicab company and should not be subject to city regulations. It says it does rigorous background checks and vehicle inspections, and maintains ample liability insurance.
Jim Ready, manager of regulated industries for Kansas City, said no tickets have been issued in recent days as the city has tried to negotiate a way for Lyft to comply with its licensing and permitting requirements. He said those talks remain at a stalemate. Licensing fees average out to about a dollar a day per driver, he said.