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Court lets Uber appeal a class-action lawsuit filed by its drivers

Court lets Uber appeal a class-action lawsuit filed by its drivers
Uber has argued that all cases should be resolved on an individual basis through arbitration, as stipulated by the arbitration clause in its driver contracts. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

Uber has caught a break in a class-action lawsuit that could force the San Francisco company to treat many drivers as employees, not contractors.

In a small victory for the on-demand transportation company, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit said it would allow Uber to appeal a District Court order that certified a class of nearly 160,000 drivers in California.

In its appeal, attorneys representing Uber argued that drivers for the ride-hailing service signed away their right to participate in class-action lawsuits due to a binding arbitration clause. District Judge Edward Chen certified the class last September after deciding that those arbitration agreements were unenforceable.

"District courts are not supposed to embark on seek-and-destroy missions in which they resort to inventing creative means of obliterating arbitration agreements," Uber's lawyers, led by Gibson Dunn's Theodore Boutrous Jr., wrote in the petition to appeal in December.

A jury trial was scheduled for June 20. It is unclear how this challenge to Chen's decision will affect the trial date.

"We are pleased that the 9th Circuit has granted this petition to review the lower court's order," an Uber spokeswoman said.

Shannon Liss-Riordan, an attorney representing drivers in the case, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Uber has fought class certification from day one, arguing that all cases should be resolved on an individual basis through arbitration, as stipulated by the arbitration clause in its driver contracts.

If Uber succeeds in its appeal, the stakes of the lawsuit would be lowered significantly and potentially proceed as a lawsuit involving only the four named plaintiffs, as opposed to all Uber drivers in California.

Twitter: @traceylien

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