Over the years, ridesharing has become one of the dominant forms of transportation for both locals and travelers in every major city. Uber is the top player in this market with approximately 70% of the United States market share and taking riders worldwide on over 2 billion trips in just the first quarter of 2023.
For riders in the United States, Uber has made broader and more aggressive use of arbitration provisions in its Terms and Conditions with each passing year. Uber mandates, with each ride you taken, that you agree to its Terms and Conditions in place at that time including mandatory binding arbitration. The arbitration section alone in Uber Terms and Conditions in place, at the time of this writing, is more than 4,500 words in length. Buried in those thousands of words is a requirement that any claim against Uber for personal injury suffered as a passenger must be resolved through binding arbitration regardless of when it occurred. What this means is that Uber forces thousands of words of legalese on its customers that have a major impact on their legal rights and that can be changed at Uber's whim any time you catch a ride using your mobile device at an airport terminal or street corner. Large corporations like Uber favor arbitration over jury trials because they believe they will receive more favorable treatment from arbitrators than regular citizens serving on juries.
In a recent case, however, Bautista LeRoy successfully challenged Uber's demand for arbitration. The firm's client had been an Uber rider for many years and first registered before Uber imposed any arbitration requirement on its riders. It was only afterwards, and without any notice, that Uber added arbitration of personal injury claims to its Terms and Conditions. Years later he was a passenger on an Uber ride when the driver negligently caused a serious wreck that resulted in Bautista LeRoy's client suffering a traumatic brain injury. Our client, whose job required frequent travel, continued using Uber's app in the years that followed his collision.
Uber argued that its Terms and Conditions, as accepted by Bautista LeRoy's client in rides that took place after his injury, required the submission of his claim to arbitration. Uber's claim was based on changes to the Terms and Conditions first accepted in Uber's app after the collision and injury, after Uber had been notified of the client's claim, and after the lawsuit was filed. In other words, Uber claimed it had an absolute unilateral right to change the rules after a court claim had been filed. We challenged Uber's demand for arbitration as unfair – how could a lay person, setting up a ride on a mobile device on a street corner, be expected to understand and knowingly agree he was giving up his right to pursue a claim in court for a past injury?
In addition to demanding arbitration, Uber attempted to prevent our client from even receiving discovery regarding the alleged arbitration agreement itself. After multiple hearings over several months, the issue of Uber's right to arbitration was finally submitted to the Court for ruling. On October 12, 2023, the Court agreed with Bautista LeRoy's arguments and denied Uber's demand to arbitration. Serving Kansas City, MO and KS as well as surrounding areas of Benton County and St. Louis.