Company Liable for Injuries by Electric Rental Scooters

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April 18, 2023
Edward Smith

Parked Electric Rental Scooters Can Cause Trip Hazards 

A California court has allowed a lawsuit against a scooter company to proceed, opening the possibility of an injunction against the operation of electric rental scooters. The Court of Appeal for the district of Los Angeles overturned a judgment dismissing the action filed in Sara Hacala v. Bird Rides, Inc., which tracks and maintains control over hundreds of scooters placed on streets and sidewalks under a permit from the City of Los Angeles. Hacala had tripped over one of the parked scooters and was injured. In a 2-1 decision, the court held that she had grounds for action under negligence and nuisance theories. 

Public Nuisance Lawsuit to Go Forward

Justice Anne Egerton wrote the opinion for the majority, while Lee Edmon, the Presiding Justice, signed it, and Justice Luis Lavin was the dissenter. Egerton concluded that Hacala could maintain a private action as Bird’s alleged conduct created a public nuisance that obstructed public sidewalks and created tripping hazards that the general public must avoid.

Lawsuit Was Based on a Breach of Duty

Hacala also brought a cause of action against Bird based on the alleged breach of its “general duty” of care under Civil Code §1714(a). The code states that everyone maintains responsibility for injuries to another by their want of ordinary care or skill in managing their property or person. Egerton concluded that having deployed its dockless scooters onto public streets, Bird’s general duty includes an obligation to use ordinary care to locate and move a scooter when it poses an unreasonable risk of danger to others. Hacala also sought to take action against the City of Los Angeles, but the court dismissed this request.

City Not Liable for Injuries Caused by Badly Placed Electric Scooters

The court found the city immune from liability through Government Code §821. This code offers immunity when trauma occurs because a public employee failed to enforce a law, and under §820.4, which provides that public employees aren’t liable for their acts or omissions if they exercise due care in executing or enforcing the law. However, Hacala argued that Egerton should have allowed her to show a dangerous public property condition under Gov. Code §835. This provision states that public entities are liable for injuries on their properties if the plaintiffs establish that the areas were in a dangerous condition at the time of the accident, that it proximately caused the trauma, and that it created a reasonably foreseeable risk of the kind of harm which was incurred.

Controversy Surrounding Electric Rental Scooters

The use of electric rental scooters is a growing controversy in many cities. In Paris, a referendum held in 2023 saw an overwhelming vote by Parisians to end the operation of the 15,000 electric rental scooters in the city. In December 2022, the US National Transportation Safety Board released a report stating 119 people or more died while using electric scooters between 2017-21. However, proponents of the scooters argue that they do not emit carbon, unlike automobiles.

How Does the Ruling Affect Those Injured by a Rental Electric Scooter?

Although the city cannot be held liable for an injury caused by an Electric Scooter parked in a location to cause an accident, the company can. If you suffered severe injuries from a poorly placed electric scooter and would like free advice on whether you can place a claim, contact us. We can help.

California Personal Injury Lawyer 

I’m Ed Smith, a California personal injury lawyer. If you suffered an injury from a misplaced electric rental scooter, our accident attorneys can provide free and friendly advice at (916) 921-6400. You can also reach us by calling (800) 404-5400 or filling out the short online contact form. We offer a free review of your case, can answer your questions, and will let you know what options are available to recover compensation for your injuries.

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