Action Filed Against Electric Scooters in California

Class Action Filed Against Electric Scooters

Following the first death last month associated with electric scooters, a class action was recently filed in Los Angeles against the major electric scooter manufacturers, including Lime, Bird, Segway and several other companies.  Although these vehicles are an excellent way to get around in large cities like Los Angeles where traffic is notoriously heavy, the lawsuit is emblematic of some of the problems that have occurred as a result of the lightning-quick spread of these e-scooters throughout Los Angeles and other major cities across the country since they first were introduced in the last few years.  Electric scooters are virtually noiseless and often riders use them on the sidewalk, so the incidence of accidents when they are present in large numbers where there are also large numbers of pedestrians is frighteningly high. This is leading to an increasing number of accidents either involving the riders themselves falling off the scooters and sustaining sometimes severe injuries or, more often, pedestrians being injured when they are moved down on the sidewalk by an electric scooter.  

The Class Action Lawsuit and the Plaintiffs’ Allegations Against the Electric Scooters Manufacturer

According to an article from the Washington Post, the class action lawsuit, which was filed in California state court, accuses the companies of both gross negligence and “aiding and abetting assaults” of pedestrians by riders of e-scooters.  In support of these claims, the lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of eight plaintiffs, further contends that the companies knew that collisions were regularly occurring between riders on e-scooters and pedestrians on streets in cities across the country but they did nothing to stop these collisions from occurring, such as when they refused to do anything about the increasing number of riders who ride an e-scooter and then simply ditch it on the sidewalk.  It further claims that a number of the most popular models of electric scooter have unspecified manufacturing defects which make them unsafe to use.

Injuries and Emergency Room Visits Caused by the Craze for Electric Scooters in the Nation’s Major Cities

The lawsuit further claims that the e-scooters have led to a spike in emergency room visits by those who were injured by someone riding an electric scooter.  This is consistent with the experience of emergency rooms across the country. According to another article from the Washington Post, emergency room visits in Salt Lake City attributable to electric scooters were up by 161 percent since the vehicles were first introduced to the city’s roads little more than two years ago.  During the period June to September 2017, 8 injuries from e-scooter accidents came through the University of Utah’s emergency room doors, whereas a year later in 2018 there were 21 such incidents.  This trend has been consistent with the experience of emergency medicine physicians throughout the country, who have noticed a similar uptick in cities from Los Angeles to New York and everywhere in between.

What Is It About e-Scooters That Can Make Them So Dangerous?

Although the claims in the recent California lawsuit that e-scooter manufacturers are “aiding and abetting assaults” may be a bit of a stretch, there are a number of specific factors unique to these types of vehicles that make e-scooters particularly dangerous.  First, they often are used to ride on sidewalks where large numbers of pedestrians are present, particularly in large urban areas where the scooters have caught on most quickly. Given they are used in high pedestrian traffic areas, where the sidewalks are more likely to be crowded anyway, e-scooters are more likely to mow down a pedestrian on Rodeo Drive in Hollywood than in rural South Dakota. In addition, the scooters are also largely noiseless, so a pedestrian may have no idea that an e-scooter is right behind them until it plows into them.  

One L.A. Times piece from July of this year highlights some of the dangers associated with electric scooters.  One pedestrian on a Santa Monica sidewalk recounted a story of turning around after hearing a noise like someone skidding and seeing an e-scooter ride bearing down upon he and his wife, the wheels locked and the rider trying desperately to slow the scooter down.  The author of the piece even recounted her own experience seeing two e-scooter riders go down in front of her house, with one of them having blood dripping off her when she got up. The author also recounted her own experience riding an e-scooter, when a bicyclist wearing helmets turned in front of her, causing her to fall off the scooter and smack her head on the pavement.  Thankfully, she had been wearing a helmet provided by the electric scooter company from whom she had rented the scooter (Bird), which is not always the case with everyone who rides these vehicles. Indeed, given that California recently legalized riding e-scooters without a helmet, it is likely even more such incidents will now occur.

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