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Court: Miami's $100 non-resident EMT fee legal

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.

A three-judge panel from 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 and a violation of her rights under intrastate travel. A little more than a year ago, 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 Mendez applauded the court’s decision and saluted her team.

She said it's not yet clear if the city will begin issuing 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 attorneys could not be immediately reached Wednesday afternoon.

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