Judge rules Uber can’t force private arbitration on customers

Judge rules Uber can’t force private arbitration on customers

Uber can’t force its customers to accept private arbitration instead of taking their legal claims to court, a Brooklyn judge has ruled, allowing a disabled woman to move forward with a lawsuit.

The company’s arbitration clause is buried so deep in reams of legal language that it is unfair to expect users of the app to dig that deeply through the fine print, wrote Kings County Judge Francois Rivera in a decision released Wednesday.

“A registrant may complete the process without seeing or even being aware that there are other clickable buttons leading to a screenshot containing Uber’s terms and conditions,” he wrote.

The ruling means that Elizabeth Ramos, 56, of Starret City, Brooklyn, can take Uber to court for failing to pick her up on several occasions when she tried to order a wheelchair-accessible ride through the app in the summer of 2016.

“I’m not going to stop until we can go to the app and get a ride as quickly as everyone else,” said Ramos, who has been using a wheelchair since she was a preteen.

The ruling only applies to New York, but it could be used as a precedent to force Uber to go to court in cases in other states, said Ian Poulos, who is representing Ramos.

“Uber has been pushing cases to arbitration all across the country so they don’t have to go to court and create a precedent,” said Poulos. “This case isn’t binding outside of New York, but it is very persuasive and other courts could follow this standard. This is a big deal.”

The app company had traditionally forced any rider who sued over sexual assault or harassment to go to arbitration instead of court. The company announced in May that it would change that policy.

Disability advocates say the ruling could lead to easier transportation for wheelchair-bound riders.

“Companies hide behind arbitration clauses that make it difficult to go the court to win basic rights, including the right to accessible transportation,” said Joe Rappaport, Executive Director for the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled. “This is a first step toward getting people with disabilities a ride on a system that other New Yorkers ride every day. “

Uber now has 30 days to respond to the original court case that Ramos filed in 2016. Company officials declined to comment on the case or ruling.


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