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Georgia Court Rejects Motion to Compel Arbitration in Wrongful Death Case

Published on Jun 17, 2021 at 9:32 am in Rideshare Lawsuits.

An appellate court in Georgia rules that a mother whose son was killed by an Uber driver cannot be forced to arbitrate her wrongful death and negligence claims against the tech company.

In many situations, Uber forces arbitration on accident victims. The company claims to be able to do this because of the forced arbitration agreement that is included in its terms and conditions when users register for accounts on the app. The plaintiff in this case, however, believes the agreement is not valid because the app design prevented the user from seeing the text and hyperlink containing the terms and conditions. As a result, when Android users access the app and enter their payment information, the keyboard that pops up on the screens blocks the agreement.

According to Atlanta attorney Max Thelen, who represents the plaintiff, “There must be proof of the assent ordinarily required to form a binding contract. The holding will have a lot of practical importance for cases against companies whose primary interactions with their customers are through an application, like Uber. And keeping the case in court rather than arbitration where a large corporation can have an outsized influence on the outcome is important.”

While the appellate court did not find sufficient evidence that a user could not reasonably assent to the terms and conditions as a matter of law, the court did question whether the keyboard blocked the text and hyperlink. Thus, under Georgia’s objective theory of intent, users could not have consented because of the blocked text.

According to the court, the app’s design “raises questions of whether the on-screen keyboard concealed the text so that the terms and conditions were either never displayed or displayed for an unreasonably short amount of time such that [the plaintiff’s son] would not have seen them.”

In addition to that, the court also questioned whether the plaintiff’s son ever saw updated terms and conditions that were emails to users and rejected Uber’s argument that continued use of the app constitutes consent to the terms and conditions.

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