SAN JOSE (CN) – A federal judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit accusing Uber of discriminating against blind people by refusing to transport guide dogs.
The September 2014 lawsuit from the National Federation of the Blind of California alleges “systemic civil rights violations” by drivers of the UberX car service. An amended complaint added two individual plaintiffs: Michael Kelly and Michael Pedersen. Michael Hingson was an original plaintiff.
The plaintiffs allege a range of mistreatment: drivers “denied rides to one blind woman on 12 separate occasions, charged blind riders cancellation fees, refused service to a blind parent on her way to a pharmacy to get a prescription for her feverish toddler, and abandoned blind travelers in extreme weather, all because of guide dogs.”
The plaintiffs claim that one UberX driver locked a woman’s guide dog in the trunk before taking the passenger.
Uber moved to dismiss the case in December, claiming the plaintiffs lack standing to sue under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and that Uber is not a public accommodation under the ADA.
U.S. District Judge Nathanael Cousins rejected the motion on April 17.
“Guided by the policy of encouraging private enforcement of anti-discrimination statutes, the court finds that plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged both standing and a plausible claim under the ADA and state law,” Cousins ruled.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Larry Paradis, with Disability Rights Advocates in Berkeley, said that the judge’s decision will have a “huge impact.”
“It’s very common that these new technology businesses try to avoid complying with the law by claiming those laws simply don’t apply to them,” Paradis told Courthouse News.
Uber’s attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.
Cousins gave Uber 14 days to answer the complaint.
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