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03.17.2021

In a significant decision involving the scope of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the D.C. Human Rights Act (DCHRA), a federal district court has held that Uber may be held liable for failing to provide transportation services that can be fully and equally enjoyed by people who use wheelchairs.  In an extensive, 48-page opinion issued on March 15, 2021, U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson denied Uber’s motion to dismiss disability rights claims brought by the Equal Rights Center (ERC), systematically rejecting a number of Uber’s claims to be exempt from the ADA and DCHRA.

Judge Jackson’s opinion explicitly rebuffs  each of Uber’s attempts to evade its obligations under the ADA and DCHRA, holding ridesharing services like Uber are subject to the broad anti-discrimination mandates.  Rejecting Uber’s assertion that it is a mere “technology company that acts as a conduit between drivers and riders,” the Court noted that Uber “controls the pricing of its drivers’ services” and Uber’s drivers “operate within a market that Uber itself created” making the court “hard-pressed to imagine how Uber drivers could continue to operate without the Uber app…”

The Court affirmed the ERC’s standing to assert claims on behalf of their members, finding that allegations that Uber’s services were unavailable and unreliable were sufficient to plausibly allege that attempting to actually ride an Uber would be an unnecessary, futile gesture that a wheelchair user need not undertake.  In reaching this conclusion, Judge Jackson explained how a recent Seventh Circuit standing decision favoring Uber actually conflicted with U.S. Supreme Court precedent, and should not be followed.

A copy of the opinion, which is reported at --- F. Supp. 3d --- 2021 WL 981011 (March 15, 2021), is available here

Relman Colfax’s team is led by Megan Cacace with paralegal assistance from Perry Abdulkadir, and is joined by co-counsel at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Urban Affairs.

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