We are all familiar with Lime Scooters. The green e-scooters were everywhere before the Coronavirus pandemic hit. You find one that someone left behind, pay a fee on your phone, and you are free to zip around town. These e-scooters have been hugely popular in a number of cities and on college campuses.
Now, Lime is facing increasing pressure from lawsuits growing out of accidents and injuries from scooter use. A lawsuit against Lime and Segway, the company that manufactures some Lime scooters, was filed on August 18, 2020 in San Francisco Superior Court.
The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of some 50 plaintiffs as a class action, alleges personal injuries arising from poor maintenance and defective products. Lime scooters can all go up to 16 mph with a 25-mile radius.
Causes of action against Lime and Segway include:
- Strict Products Liability;
- Breach of Implied Warranty of Fitness; and
- Breach of Implied Warranty of Merchantability.
The case is being brought as a class-action. The details of each plaintiff’s accident is alleged within the complaint. Plaintiffs are seeking monetary damages, including punitive damages, and declaratory or injunctive relief.
Lime Scooter Accidents
Lime scooters are typically available for rental regardless of a rider’s understanding of the laws governing use. Some jurisdictions stipulate that these scooters are allowed on sidewalks, some only on streets, and some jurisdictions prohibit the scooters altogether. In addition, when a rider rents an e-scooter, they may have a helmet, but many do not. When an accident happens, it can result in severe injuries and lacerations. Head trauma, smashed teeth, and broken bones are not uncommon. In this lawsuit, each of these injuries is outlined clearly.
Generally speaking, there are a lot of different ways that E-Scooter accidents can unfold. This particular lawsuit covers single rider injuries, allegedly caused by defective and poorly maintained products. E-scooters can also collide with cars, pedestrians, other e-scooters, buildings, and other property.
The locations of the accidents alleged in the lawsuit cover California, Ohio, Arizona, Washington, Florida, Texas, Illinois, Nevada, Kentucky and the District of Columbia. Plaintiffs are claiming a number of issues with the scooters.
Defective brakes, defective throttles, defective tires, defective handlebars, geofencing issues, and other issues have caused people to be thrown from the scooters. Some of these issues are grounded in product defects. Others are grounding in negligent maintenance.
The lawsuit alleges business practices leading to poorly maintained scooters. The suit alleges that the crew, known as “juicers,” used to pick up the scooters each evening are not paid unless and until the scooter goes back out on the street for use. This creates a disincentive to keep the scooters out of the potation for repairs and maintenance.
Single Rider Accidents
The main focus of this 50-plaintiff lawsuit is the single rider accident. Most of these riders experienced a mechanical issue that either caused them to crash or caused them to be thrown from the scooter.
It is not yet clear in this suit how inexperience played into the accidents alleged in the suit. For many, relative inexperience with the scooter coupled with the scooter’s speed, may contribute to accidents.
One study has shown that 33% of those riders who are injured are injured in their first ride. This raises issues for both riders and companies regarding scooter operational information, helmets, and liability waivers.
The Effect of the User Agreement
Before being able to unlock Lime’s e-scooter, a rider must agree to Lime’s terms which include a liability waiver. Lime’s 2018 User Agreement is extensive. In it, the rider ostensibly waives their right to just trial and waives their right to bring or join a class action. That means that if injured, a rider must submit to arbitration.
The User Agreement also seeks to cap any damages at $100. The waiver issue is one to watch with regard to the handling of future lawsuits. One way around the waiver seems to be alleging product defects or malfunction. That is the case with this new San Francisco case. Alleging gross negligence is another way around the waiver.
In a July 2020 decision against Lime, the California court of Appeals in San Francisco refused to compel the arbitration clause. The setting is different, however. In the appellate case, the arbitration clause was being brought to bear against one of Lime’s own “juicers.” As more of these cases pile up, courts are beginning to see how dangerous the scooters are and how unfair Lime’s User Agreement is in the face of often serious injuries suffered by riders.