The nation's electronic-scooter companies are facing more blowback as concerns rise about the devices’ safety — this time in the form of a class-action lawsuit.
The suit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Friday, accuses two of the largest e-scooter companies, Lime and Bird, as well as other e-scooter firms, of "gross negligence" and "aiding and abetting assault."
Filed on behalf of eight initial plaintiffs, the lawsuit says the companies' practices have contributed to injuries in multiple ways. By "dumping" scooters on public streets without an appropriate warning, the suit alleges, e-scooter companies acted negligently and should have known that their devices would become a dangerous "public nuisance."
Three plaintiffs claim they were walking when e-scooter riders crashed into them from behind, resulting in severe injuries. The suit alleges that e-scooter companies knew their riders were injuring pedestrians and — by failing to stop the collisions from occurring — assisted and encouraged scooter riders as they committed "assaults."
The suit also alleges that Bird and Lime scooters contain defective electronics and mechanical parts, as well as inadequate safety instructions for riders, and that the companies have "a wanton disregard for the safety of others." The suit says the risks posed by the devices "were known and/or knowable" based on "professional knowledge" within the transportation community.
The suit makes numerous claims about scooters' mechanical issues but does not provide concrete evidence for those claims.
The suit also names scooter manufacturers Xiaomi United States and Segway as defendants.
"While acting under the guise of the commendable goals of furthering personal freedom and mobility and protecting the environment, the defendants, and each of them, are endangering the health, safety and welfare of riders, pedestrians and the general public," the suit alleges.
The suit also says that "scores (if not hundreds) of riders and pedestrians and members of the public have suffered, are continuing to suffer and will to continue to suffer egregious and avoidable injuries and damage to their person and property."
A spokesperson for San Francisco-based Lime said the company is reviewing the complaint.
"While we don't comment on pending litigation, safety has always been at the very core of everything we do at Lime — as is our mission of reducing cars from city streets and making them safer and greener for pedestrians, bike and scooter riders alike," the spokesperson said, adding that the company "prides itself on taking proactive steps relating safety wherever we have a presence."
Bird, based in Santa Monica, pointed out that the complaint has been brought "against the entire e-scooter industry" and said shared e-scooters have become an important transportation mode "for hundreds of thousands of people in 100 cities worldwide."
"We believe that the climate crisis and our car dependency demand a transportation mode shift, and clean energy vehicles like e-scooters are already replacing millions of short car trips," Bird said in a statement. "There is no evidence that riding an e-scooter presents a greater level of danger to riders than riding a bike. Cars remain the greatest threat to commuters, killing over 40,000 people in the US yearly."
Spokespeople for Segway and Xiaomi United States did not respond to requests for comment.
Since their sudden arrival in recent months, e-scooters have been linked to an uptick in severe injuries around the country, according to emergency-room physicians. As the value and popularity of companies such as Bird and Lime have soared, a growing number of critics — including doctors, former riders and scooter mechanics — allege that e-scooter fleets are poorly maintained and prone to dangerous mechanical failures.
Two e-scooter riders — one in Dallas and one in the District of Columbia — have been involved in accidents that led to their deaths, authorities say.
The class-action suit adds a new category of people to the list of those fiercely opposed to the latest form of controversial transportation sweeping the nation: pedestrians.
Among the plaintiffs is David Petersen, a 62-year-old street performer known as Davy Rocks, who says he was struck by an e-scooter rider in June and severely injured.
Petersen said that he was dancing for onlookers near the Santa Monica Pier, clad in his trademark "gladiator outfit," when a man on a Bird scooter hit him from behind. The man fled the scene, he said. He said that the force of the crash knocked him down, but that he managed to lessen the impact by catching himself with his right hand. Had he been an elderly person or a small child, he said, he could have been killed.
Petersen said he suffered a fractured arm and severed biceps. The injury caused him to miss weeks of work, and the muscle had to be surgically reattached using a cadaver graft, he said.
"My arm is never going to be the same, not to mention the 5-inch-long scar it's got now," he said, adding that his arm has lost rotation and feels stiff. "If Bird is going to profit off the human meat grinder they've created in Santa Monica, they should be held responsible for the suffering they've caused."
Additionally, the lawsuit accuses Bird and Lime of multiple breaches of their warranties and alleges that their vehicles were "not suitable" for repeated use in public places.
Stating that the deployment of e-scooters is unlawful, the suit claims that each company should be prohibited from continuing to deploy scooters in California. Beyond seeking damages, the suit claims that scooter companies should be required to include "adequate warnings and/or instructions" to their apps and vehicles.
Catherine Lerer — a personal-injury lawyer from Santa Monica who, with lawyer Jeffrey Lee Costell, is representing the plaintiffs — said she has received more than 100 calls from people injured by scooters in recent months. Whether they involve riders or pedestrians, she said, the injuries are consistent: broken noses, legs, arms, wrists, hands and ribs, as well as head injuries and tears to anterior cruciate ligaments and rotator cuffs that require surgery.