By Josh Taylor
Electric scooters, or e-scooters for short, have been popping up everywhere. City travel has become big business. From bike share systems to rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft, innovators are attempting to alleviate every need to jump in a personal automobile or taxi in America’s cities. The latest trend in some cities is rentable e-scooters to scoot about the city. Some of the leading e-scooter companies are already valued in the billions, as investors see new potential to supplant cars altogether. Bird, Lime, Skip, Spin, and Segway are all e-scooter developers who have put their rides on the streets of American cities, but not everyone is happy about this latest transportation innovation—or are they? The floodgates of personal injury litigation against e-scooter companies is just beginning, with more presumed in other states and cities where e-scooters have made (or are going to make) an appearance. Attorneys in states where e-scooters are mobilized or coming are preparing for a swathe of new litigation. Cities with e-scooters have already seen an uptick in emergency room visits, so more litigation is likely to follow on the heels of a new case out of California.
At the end of October, a class action was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleging “gross negligence” and “aiding and abetting assault” against e-scooter companies, among other claims. The action names nine people who suffered a myriad of injuries to hands, arms, teeth, face, fingers, and more. The lawsuit notably comes on the heels of the first DUI prosecution for someone operating an e-scooter while intoxicated. The proliferation of new transportation technology of course brings with it potentially industry-crushing litigation. Rideshare companies deal with their share of litigation, as do bike sharing companies like Citi Bike in New York City and Divvy Bike in Chicago. This latest round of transportation litigation is another attempt to right perceived wrongs of what plaintiffs, lawyers, and others view as an un- or under-regulated transportation innovation.
The “gross negligence” claim against the e-scooter companies stems from injuries sustained as both pedestrians and riders, and accounts of the scooters themselves being negligently maintained. The lawsuit asks for no specific damages number, but instead asks the court to use its discretion in awarding damages. This fact leads to a strong belief that the lawsuit is indeed intended to curb the burgeoning e-scooter industry entirely. The companies have not yet submitted written answers to the late-October complaint, though some have issued statements comparing the relatively minor and infrequent injuries to yearly mass casualties from automobile accidents. Others have made an effort recently to point that they understand and are working on making scooter use safer.
E-scooters are already in over a hundred cities worldwide. Notably though, some cities have preemptively banned e-scooters out of fear of these types of injuries and this type of litigation. As the litigation moves along, it will be interesting to study, as it could provide a blueprint for additional transportation innovation personal injury suits. As tech continues to take over in large metropolitan areas, lawyers are licking their chops at the possibility to shape regulation of new transportation systems and perhaps even cash in on major class action litigation. We at Smokeball will keep a close eye on this new PI/class action litigation and report back!
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