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O'Hanlon v. UBER Technologies, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

November 12, 2019

PAUL O'HANLON, an individual, JONATHAN ROBISON, an individual, GAYLE LEWANDOWSKI, an individual, IRMA ALLEN, an individual, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, and PITTSBURGHERS FOR PUBLIC TRANSIT, Plaintiffs,



         I. SUMMATION

         For the reasons set forth below, the August 23, 2019 Motion to Compel Arbitration filed by Defendants Uber Technologies, Inc.; Rasier, LLC; and Rasier-CA, LLC (collectively “Uber”), ECF No. 24, will be denied.


         The above-named Plaintiffs (collectively “Plaintiffs”) filed a June 11, 2019 Complaint, ECF No. 1, followed by a July 12, 2019 First Amended Complaint, ECF No. 10, seeking class certification and injunctive and declaratory relief. Plaintiffs are Pennsylvania residents and a non-profit corporation headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Defendants are Delaware corporations. Uber provides a ridesharing service which allows mobile smartphone application (“App”) users to call an available vehicle driver when they need transportation.

         Plaintiffs - like other plaintiffs in similar actions filed in Federal District Courts against Uber or Lyft, Inc., another ridesharing transportation company - allege that Defendants are in violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq., (the “ADA”). Plaintiffs allege Defendants' violation of both (1) Section 12182's prohibitions of disability discrimination with regard to places of public accommodation and (2) Section 12184's prohibitions with regard to public transportation services provided by private entities.[1] More specifically, Plaintiffs allege that individuals such as themselves, who rely on wheelchairs for mobility and thus also wheelchair accessible vehicles (“WAVs”) for transportation, are injured by Defendants' failure to provide any access to its on-demand ridesharing transportation service to disabled individuals requiring WAVs in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. ECF No. 10; Plaintiffs' Response in Opposition, ECF No. 35 at 1.

         Plaintiffs' allegations include that:

Because the geographic area serviced by accessible public transportation in Pittsburgh is contracting, at the same time that Uber and similar ride sharing services are capturing market share from traditional taxi companies, Uber's discriminatory practices have a profound negative impact upon individuals with mobility disabilities in Pittsburgh . . .
. . . Uber has the ability to provide accessible service without significant disruption to its business model. Uber tightly controls all aspects of how both its drivers and riders use the service, mediating all payments, regulating the types of vehicles the drivers use, and offering financial incentives to ensure that there are enough drivers on the road to meet the demand for rides. Moreover, Uber is already providing widespread wheelchair accessible transportation in London and six other cities around the United Kingdom.

ECF No. 10 at 2.

         Plaintiffs further allege that each individual Plaintiff (1) would use Uber but for the unavailability of WAVs and (2) has not downloaded Uber's application because s/he knows that doing so would be futile while WAVs are unavailable through Uber in Pittsburgh.[2]

         Customers signing up for Uber's services must download and create an account using the Uber Rider App (“Uber App”). The terms and conditions required to be accepted to use the Uber App (“Terms of Use”) include an arbitration provision. Defendants do not dispute that no named Plaintiff has created an account or entered into a service agreement with Uber. Defendants filed their Motion to Compel Arbitration and Memorandum of Points and Authorities (“Brief in Support”), ECF No. 24 and 25 respectively, on August 23, 2019; Plaintiffs filed their Repose in Opposition, ECF No. 35, on September 30th; and Defendants filed their Reply in Further Support, ECF No. 38, on October 15th.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Uber's service agreement is a contract subject to the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. § 2 (the “FAA”) and the District Court must compel a signatory party to a valid arbitration agreement to abide by those terms as to any dispute. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc. v. Byrd, 470 U.S. 213, 218 (1985). Conversely, parties who have not assented to an arbitration agreement generally cannot be compelled to arbitrate. E.E.O.C. v. Waffle House, 534 U.S. 279, 293 (1989); Bel-Ray Co., Inc. v. Chemrite (Pty) Ltd., 181 F.3d 435, 444 (3d Cir. 1999) (“Arbitration is strictly a matter of contract. If a party has not agreed to arbitrate, the courts have no authority to mandate [arbitration].”) Plaintiffs, having “never downloaded the Uber App . . . lacked notice of Uber's terms and conditions, including its embedded arbitration provision, and never manifested their intention to be bound.” Namisnak v. Uber Technologies, Inc., 315 F.Supp.3d 1124, 1127 (N.D. Cal. 2018).

         Uber's Brief in Support, ECF No. 25, contends that “this is not an appropriate forum”, asserting that Plaintiffs are equitably estopped from refusing to arbitrate[3]because (1) their claims necessarily “implicate” Uber's Terms of Use and (2) their standing to sue as deterrence-injury plaintiffs is based on allegations that they would have contracted with Uber but for its discriminatory policies, thus again necessarily incorporating Uber's arbitration conditions. In sum, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs are barred from Federal forum selection and this litigation because they cannot ...

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