Makes the Rules, Who Enforces the Rules?
When dockless scooters were approved for a trial period last September in Los Angeles, it seemed like this could help limit car trips, lessen gridlock and provide an alternative to riding a bike to work or traveling within the city.
The concept was simple. Anyone with a driver’s license and a credit card could pick up a scooter, start it, go a distance and then leave it on a curb near a bus stop or other public right-of way.
In order to have their product on the streets, scooter companies paid an annual fee to the City of $20,000 and an additional $130 per vehicle.
Then, accidents started happening, the result of carelessness and in some cases, malfunctioning scooters that cause people to lose control. Other people were hit by scooters when riders failed to follow the rules. In one flagrant case, a scooter rider struck Corpus Christi Monsignor Liam Kidney as he walked across Toyopa, abandoned the scooter and ran off without responding to the incident. (Father Kidney was transported to the hospital with a concussion.)
The Pacific Palisades Community Council passed a motion and presented it to Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman Mike Bonin, which insisted that companies that operate dockless scooters be required to cooperate with law enforcement officials (e.g., by providing the name of a scooter rider who causes an accident). If the company doesn’t cooperate, it would lose its business license.
In October 2018, a civil lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles County against scooter companies for product liability. In November the case was removed from Los Angeles Superior Court and filed in State Court, under District Judge Dolly M. Gee and Magistrate Judge Frederick F. Mumm.
This class-action lawsuit seeks monetary, injunctive relief and punitive damages (visit: src.bna.com/CFM) and alleges that the scooter companies were negligent in allowing fleets of scooters into public areas knowing that they were endangering the “health, safety and welfare of riders, pedestrians and the general public.”
The lawsuit also notes that individuals have thrown the scooters into trashcans, dumpsters, the Venice Canals and the Pacific Ocean, in addition to lighting them on fire and burying them at various beaches.
When a recent fire in a sanitation truck held up traffic on Chautauqua, one worker said that truck fires have gone up because people dump the scooters in the garbage bins and the lithium ion batteries in the scooters start a fire.
The lawsuit details the injuries suffered by some of the plaintiffs. One person was crashed into by a scooter and eight of his front teeth were damaged and he needed stitches.
A second person was hit from behind by a scooter and suffered injuries to a right wrist and left knee. Yet a third victim needed surgery after he was hit. Another person tripped over scooters left lying on the sidewalk and suffered a broken wrist and ring finger.
One suffered damage to his car, when a scooter ran into it. A scooter had its accelerator lock up, causing the rider to lose control and fall off. He suffered injuries to his ribcage, knees, right elbow, hip and buttocks.
A handicapped driver could not park because the scooters were in handicapped parking.
Some lawyers think this lawsuit will go nowhere because of the user/rental agreements that are signed with Lime and Bird (the two main scooters found in L.A.). The agreements include a waiver and release of all claims absolving the companies of any liability related to the riders’ use of the scooters.
The 53-page Lime User agreement, effective December 2018, is thorough and states that if you do not abide by the arbitration and class action waiver provisions, you should not use the scooter. The agreement also notes that a user is supposed to report crashes to Lime and if it involves personal injury, you should report it to the police.
On one page, it notes that an individual is not supposed to carry another person on the scooter and people are not to use the phone while operating the scooter or operate under the influence. Helmets are advised.
Under its confidentiality of information, Lime writes that if it receives a subpoena from any court or other authority, then Lime will provide all requested information in accordance with applicable law.
In the Liam Kidney case, it appears if the vehicle was a Lime and if the company had received a subpoena from L.A., they would have turned over the driver’s information.
The Bird Rental Agreement, Waiver of Liability and Release, is slightly shorter at 20 pages, plus a separate seven-page privacy agreement.
The Agreement warns potential users that “you should CAREFULLY READ all terms and conditions before entering into the agreement.” Then to help those who may be trying to rent through a smart phone, perspective users are directed to look at the “Capitalized Items,” sort of like CliffNotes.
The Bird agreement also specifies a sole rider on the vehicle, that one cannot use a cell phone while riding a vehicle and should not be parked in a prohibited parking spot. Bird also recommends helmets and warns automotive insurance policies may not cover these types of vehicles
About accidents, “Rider must report any accident, crash, damage, personal injury traffic violation, or stolen or lost vehicle to Bird as soon as possible. If a crash involves personal injury, property damage, or a stolen vehicle, Rider shall file a report with the local police department within 24 hours.”
The agreement notes that the rider agrees that Bird can cooperate with law enforcement to provide any necessary information.
“We may also use or disclose information if required to do so by law or in the good-faith belief that such action is necessary to, (a) conform to applicable law or comply with legal process served on us or the Services.”
Further, it does appear from the agreements that both companies will provide rider information to authorities, if they are given a subpoena.
CTN wonders how many people renting a scooter will take the time to read either a 53- or 27-page document?
Furthermore, if these documents are legal, who is responsible for enforcing the single rider, no texting, no drinking/smoking and proper parking? Is the City ready to enforce hit-and-run by issuing subpoenas?