In early June, a Brooklyn judge ruled that Uber users couldn’t be expected to navigate to the terms & conditions section of the app to locate legal language that binds them to using arbitration to solve disputes with the company. The ruling came about in response to a Brooklyn woman’s attempt to sue the rideshare giant for failing to pick her up when she requested a wheelchair-accessible car. The woman, Elizabeth Ramos, is disabled and has relied on a wheelchair for most of her life. In the summer of 2016, she attempted to secure a ride through Uber in a wheelchair-capable car on multiple occasions, only to be told there were no cars available. With the hope of making Uber as user-friendly for the disabled as for the able-bodied, she decided to sue the company. It was only through attempting to sue that she realized she had unknowingly agreed to arbitration. Users who order a ride through Uber are automatically bound to the Terms & Conditions just by using the service.
Arbitration is a process in which disputes are handled outside the courtroom with an arbitrator (a negotiator) chosen by the group accused of wrongdoing. The meetings are held behind closed doors, so the public has no idea that a dispute has been brought forth. Companies favor arbitration agreements because they are more favorable to the company and eliminate the potential for high jury verdicts. They also help keep unsavory details of abuse, neglect, and discrimination out of the public eye, allowing the company to retain tighter control of their public image.
Ruling Could Pave the Way for Other Lawsuits
The attorney for Ms. Ramos, Ian Poulos, described the enormous impact this ruling could have. Although the judge’s decision only applies to the specific case at hand, it will likely be referred to in other lawsuits attempting to overturn arbitration agreements and used as legal precedent for others who wish to sue Uber. Mr. Poulos also remarked that Uber was always quick to force arbitration because a case tried before a jury could establish a legal precedent that could set the company up for other large lawsuits.
Uber is certainly not immune to discrimination lawsuits. In April 2016, the National Federation of the Blind sued the company for numerous instances in which drivers would not pick up blind passengers who relied on guide dogs. Uber has been known to attempt to avoid legal responsibility for any bad behavior of their drivers by claiming their employees are all contractors and that they are not responsible for their actions. In this case, the court sided with the National Federation of the Blind and Uber has since been forced to update their policies on blind passengers with service dogs.
Sexual Assault Cases Against Uber
In May, Uber announced that they would be eliminating a major restriction in their terms & conditions. Likely to preserve their image in the wake of over one hundred sexual assault allegations against the company, Uber’s terms & conditions now say that cases involving sexual assault are able to be pursued in court. They also have agreed to remove a confidentiality clause from legal settlements.
Just two weeks before the company announced this change, CNN published the results of their investigation that uncovered at least 103 Uber drivers that have been accused of sexual assault or abuse in the past 4 years. While some of the accused have already been convicted and some are still awaiting trial, all 103 drivers were named in official court documents.
If you have been assaulted or otherwise harmed by an Uber driver, now is the time to pursue action against the company. The Chicago personal injury attorneys of Levin & Perconti have been demanding justice for wronged and injured victims for nearly 3 decades. Contact us now for a FREE consultation with one of our attorneys by calling (312) 332-2872 or by completing our online case evaluation form.