Tech by VICE

Lawyer in Uber Class Action Says They Want to Take the Case National

​Neither party wants to back down in the newly-certified class action lawsuit against Uber.

by Sarah Jeong
Sep 3 2015, 4:38pm

Image: Uber

Neither party wants to back down in the newly-certified class action lawsuit against Uber. While Uber's attorneys are talking about appealing the most recent decision, the other side is talking about taking the case national.

The employment lawsuit against Uber, which will decide whether Uber's drivers are independent contractors or actually employees, was certified as a class action on Tuesday, with a potential class of 160,000 drivers. Uber put out a press release earlier this week claiming that due to restrictions placed on the class by Judge Edward Chen, only 15,000 actual drivers out of the larger total of 160,000 that is cited in legal filings would be eligible as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

"We don't have the actual numbers, but that sounds low," said Adelaide Pagano, an attorney at Boston-based firm Lichten & Liss-Riordan, which is representing the plaintiffs in this case as well as plaintiffs in a number of other sharing-economy cases, including lawsuits against Lyft, Postmates, Caviar, and Homejoy.

The decision on Tuesday only certified drivers who aren't bound by arbitration clauses—in other words, bound by contracts that signed away the right to sue Uber. Although arbitration clauses before May 2014 have been ruled invalid, many drivers have started working for Uber since, or have accepted the new arbitration clause. Drivers that never contracted directly with Uber, instead working through a middleman company, are not eligible either.

These limitations might change as the case progresses, but for now, Lichten & Liss-Riordan's response has been to sweep up as many drivers into their case as possible, even if they don't fall into the certified class. "[D]rivers who have driven for Uber any time since May 2014 who want to participate in the case will need to contact our firm, so that we can bring this challenge for them individually," they said in an official statement. According to the firm, approximately 2,000 drivers all over the country have already contacted them.

The case they originally brought was a national class action, which the judge later limited to California. If they succeed in court—which could be years from now—the lawyers say they "intend to appeal the ruling that limited the case to California and will seek reimbursement for expenses, as well as tips that were not distributed to Uber drivers, around the country."

Meanwhile, Uber is looking to knock out class action status entirely. They've stated they will likely appeal the decision to certify, and are making ominous references to lengthy litigation.

It's possible the two sides are just posturing for the other's benefit, but things look fairly serious. Uber has been pulling out all the stops for months, and the plaintiffs aren't backing down, either.