Court: Miami’s non-resident $100 ambulance fee legal

The Third District Court of Appeal overturned a trial judge’s ruling last year that the fee was an unconstitutional tax


By David Smiley
The Miami Herald

MIAMI, Fla. — The city of Miami can once again levy a $100 emergency medical transport fee on people who live outside the city, an appellate court ruled Wednesday.

The Third District Court of Appeal overturned a trial judge’s ruling last year that the fee was an unconstitutional tax. The lawsuit was brought by Cheryl Haigley, of St. Petersburg, who was taken to the hospital by Miami Fire Rescue after tripping and falling on a city sidewalk outside Coconut Grove's Mayfair shops in 2010.

Haigley, who paid $445 for the ride, including the $100 surcharge, argued that the charge was an unauthorized tax for which the person charged received nothing in return. Last year Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Marc Schumacher agreed and ordered the city to stop charging the fee and “refund the moneys collected.”

The city had been charging non-residents the fee since 1992, according to the court, and transferring the money to its general fund, which pays for things like police, firefighters and parks. Haigley had sought the return of those fees charged in the four years before she filed her suit.

It’s unclear how much the city would have owed in refunds, but that may be irrelevant if Wednesday’s ruling sticks. Miami City Attorney Victoria Méndez said it's not yet clear if the city will begin charging the $100 fee again.

“Moving forward our office would discuss this matter with Manager Daniel J. Alfonso and his Administration to determine future collection efforts,” Mendez wrote.

Haigley’s attorney, William Wolk, said it’s likely his client will appeal a portion of Wednesday’s ruling to the Florida Supreme Court.

“We think we’re in the right here,” he said. “The city of Miami invites international visitors to come here and then taxes them with a surcharge when they get hurt. We think that’s wrong.”

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©2014 The Miami Herald

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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