A new breed of litigation is cropping up of late involving motorized scooters. See, e.g.Kirk Mitchell, “Scooter companies Bird, Lime among defendants in class action lawsuit filed in California,” The Denver Post, Oct. 23, 2018. A class action lawsuit was recently filed against two businesses that rent these vehicles. See id.The class action deals with accidents and safety issues with this mode of transport and is one that has far-reaching implications. Other factors have arisen as well with respect to these devices, and the legal community will have to address them.
A nine-plaintiff class case recently filed in California focused on injuries the parties sustained from the scooters, and the complaint seeks “unspecified compensatory and punitive damages against the scooter companies, which have deployed ‘fleets of defective scooters.’” Id.The suit was filed in late October and the plaintiffs’ attorney contends that she has heard from injured parties in another state and that the safety of such conveyances is a “nation-wide issue.” Id.
One city council in California has been besieged with complaints regarding a host of problems, from operating scooters at dangerous speeds to users parking the devices inappropriately. See, Steven Milhailovich, “Pacific Beach Town Council finds E-scooter problems growing faster than solutions,” La Jolla Light, Nov. 21, 2018. Local law enforcement noted a number of issues with such scooter use, resulting in serious injuries and head traumas. See id.
Defendant companies who rent and manufacture electronic scooters maintain that they have advantages that cannot be overlooked, such as reducing pollution (by arguably decreasing the use of cars), and that their products are not as dangerous as automobiles. See Kirk Mitchell, supra. According to the plaintiffs, however, “[w]hile acting under the guise of the commendable goals of furthering personal freedom and mobility and protecting the environment, the defendants … are endangering the health, safety and welfare of riders, pedestrians and the general public.” Id.
How to address and balance the risks and benefits motorized scooters pose may be a question for litigators and expert witnesses. Consulting experts may recommend certain ways to minimize the propensity for accidents, such as by suggesting that helmets be required to operate this form of transportation. See, e.g., Steven Mihailvoich, supra. Insurance companies may be implicated, as various parties consider whether operating such vehicles should require individuals to carry some form of coverage to protect themselves and others from accidents. See, e.g. Dara Kerr, “Electric scooters are now disrupting wrists, elbows and heads,” C-Net, Nov. 28, 2018, at https://www.cnet.com/news/electric-scooters-by-bird-and-lime-are-causing-injuries-and-accidents/(last visited Nov. 29, 2018).
The issues involved with electric scooters are many, and the question of where liability may rest in the event of certain consequences is a complex one. For instance, if an individual purchases a scooter, the product comes with a safety manual regarding several matters from weight capacity to maximum speed. See id.When such devices are rented, however, such manuals may not be available, and individuals may operate scooters in ways they were not intended, causing danger to riders and others on streets and sidewalks. See, e.g, id.Experts will be required to address the nuances of different situations and help determine which parties, if any, are at fault in particular cases.
In large cities, serious injuries involving scooters have ranged from about ten per month to as many in a day. See id. Some cities have voiced concern that indiviudals have left these vehicles in various locations when they have finished operating them, which has resulted in “obstruction to access of public walkways for people with disabilities.” Steven Mihailovoch, supra. Many legal analysts have expressed concern that regardless of whether the issue is one of product safety, user error, or something altogether different, the popularity of such vehicles and their expansive use over a relatively brief period has made it difficult for regulators to keep pace. See, e.g., id.Expert witnesses in product liability, accidents and safety involving this type of vehicle, and related matters may be instrumental in helping both sides to legal controversies determine how to sort out the myriad factors and best resolve them.