Judge Rules Uber Cannot Compel Arbitration in ADA Case

Uber’s motion to compel arbitration was denied in an Americans with Disabilities Act case before Judge Douglas P. Woodlock of the District of Massachusetts. The plaintiffs, Dino Theodore and Access with Success, Inc, represented by Shaheen Guerrera & O’Leary, argued that there was no enforceable arbitration agreement, while Uber argued there was such an agreement within the Terms of Service. The rideshare giant is represented by Morgan, Lewis & Bockius.

The Order holds that the Terms of Service were not “conspicuous” under Massachusetts law and it was “never binding on the plaintiffs, (so) its arbitration clause cannot be enforced against them.” The Terms and Conditions when setting up an account on Uber are not displayed for the user on the page; rather, they are linked alongside text reading that the user agrees to the Terms through the act of signing up. The Order referred to another case in which hyperlinked Terms and Conditions were found not substantial enough to be considered a valid arbitration agreement.

Theodore, who lives northwest of Boston, is a 58-year-old attorney who is paralyzed from the chest down. His power wheelchair does not allow him to drive, and he lives outside the area where Uber has handicapped accessible drivers available.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) began working with Uber and Lyft in 2016 to introduce the RIDE program, which would provide subsidized rides in wheelchair accessible vehicles, but Theodore’s city is outside of the program’s area. The MBTA’s organic statute provides that “no person shall, on the grounds of … handicap, be denied participation in, or the benefits of, or be otherwise subjected to discrimination under any program or activity administered or operated by or for the authority.” Theodore argued Uber should be required to provide him with wheelchair accessible transportation as part of this agreement and the Americans with Disabilities Act.