Two Types of Lawsuits E-Scooter Companies are Currently Defending

Jul 5, 2020

In our previous blog about the City of Chicago’s electric scooter pilot program, we discussed the rising popularity of “e-scooters” as a mode of transportation in dense downtown areas. While these scooters do provide a fun and efficient way to commute, they also pose significant risks to riders and pedestrians, resulting in a number of recent lawsuits being filed against e-scooter companies. For purposes of today’s blog, we will group these lawsuits into two categories: one batch of cases concerning injuries to riders, and another group related to the burden imposed by e-scooters on the disabled community.

E-Scooter Injuries Turning into Lawsuits

When compared to other forms of transportation, it is easy to see why e-scooter injuries are often more dangerous than other types of crashes – riders using these scooters have no protection between themselves and the road, and the scooters can reach top speeds around 20 mph. E-scooters are also easily accessible in the sense that virtually anyone with the appropriate mobile app can ride these scooters, and no license is required to operate one. In terms of data, the City of Austin’s Public Health Unit published a study finding that approximately half of electric scooter crashes resulted in head injuries. In January 2020, Consumer Reports also reported that electric scooter injuries are significantly rising year-over-year, with injuries nearly doubling from 2017 to 2018.

With these facts in mind, it makes sense why electric scooter companies have faced a litany of personal injury lawsuits over the last few years. For instance, Lime is currently defending a lawsuit in Indiana federal court brought by a woman alleging that her fall from a Lime scooter caused her serious brain damage. Specifically, Indianapolis woman Paula Speer claims that, while riding on a smooth, quiet street, her scooter abruptly accelerated forward and threw her onto the ground. Speer alleges that Lime’s scooters are defective because they maintain an unstable accelerator, unnecessarily small wheels, and a dangerous braking system. This case is still in its early stages, but interestingly, Speer’s action may be determined by a contract law question, i.e., whether Speer reasonably should have noticed Lime’s “User Agreement” requiring riders to wear helmets despite her claim that she borrowed the scooter from another user and thus did not consent to the agreement.

In addition to Paula’s Speer’s lawsuit in Indiana, similar personal injury cases against e-scooter companies can also be found on many other court dockets. In December 2018, a San Diego woman sued Bird claiming that her crash down a hill was caused by the scooter’s defective brakes. Analogous cases have also been filed near Los Angeles against Bird and Lyft. Here, an 88-year-old woman sued Lyft after tripping over one of the company’s e-scooters and breaking her hip and elbow. Bird was also just sued in May 2020 by a Los Angeles woman alleging that her scooter’s brakes failed at an intersection, causing her to fall and break her wrist. Outside of California, Lime faced serious allegations in Texas after a Dallas man suffered brain damage and died riding a defective scooter that “unexpectedly…broke in half” while riding in the street. Evidently, the heightened injury risks associated with e-scooters are turning into significant legal obstacles for many of the country’s largest scooter companies.

Disability Rights Groups Sue E-Scooter Companies

Though personal injury cases appear to be the biggest source of litigation for these scooter companies, they are also facing a separate group of novel claims brought by disability rights activists. This unique challenge began in California in early 2019, where a San Diego man born missing his right leg and both arms filed a lawsuit against Bird, Lime, Razor, and the City of San Diego claiming that e-scooters blocked disabled pedestrians from accessing public walkways. The complaint, which asserts violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and analogous California state laws, was filed as a class action, meaning that Plaintiff Alex Montoya is seeking to represent all persons with disabilities who have been denied access to public areas in San Diego due to the presence of e-scooters. The case has not yet reached the class certification stage, but the defendant scooter companies were able to dismiss four of Montoya’s six causes of actions in January 2020, though only one dismissal was with prejudice.

Almost a year after Montoya’s lawsuit, a similar action was filed in Minnesota against Bird, Lime, and the City of Minneapolis. In this case, Plaintiff Noah McCourt, who lives with autism and a coordination disorder, also sued under the ADA and related state law seeking to stop Bird and Lime from operating their scooters on public walkways in Minneapolis. With regard to the City of Minneapolis allowing electric scooters to be used on sidewalks, McCourt said that, “[c]ities always act like this is no big deal…[b]ut this is a big deal for people with disabilities.” McCourt’s lawsuit emphasizes how difficult it for people in wheelchairs to navigate city streets with scooters laying around. In the words of Noah McCourt, “I don’t know how someone with a wheelchair or someone with a mobility impairment or someone with even a vision impairment is supposed to get groceries. What are people with disabilities supposed to do?”

About Coffman Law Offices, P.C.

Coffman Law is committed to providing superb legal representation for people who are suffering from severe personal injuries or are dealing with the loss of a loved one due to negligence or misconduct. Coffman Law is a small, results-driven firm focused on ensuring that clients receive the compassion, attention, and consideration that they need to seek adequate redress for injuries or loss. The firm is led by Owner and Founding Partner Brian Coffman, who has dedicated his career to helping accident victims navigate the legal system and obtain redress for their injuries. If you have been injured or lost a loved one, contact Coffman Law today for a free consultation.